Monday, November 25, 2013

Maker of Angels - win a Kindle Fire

When I started this blog, my intention was to keep it focused on writing issues. I did that for a long time, and I intend to continue with that theme most of the time. Today's blog is different. It's a shameless plug for my most recent book, Maker of Angels.

Wait! Don't go away, there's information here about marketing. Check out this super book release promo:

"Win a Kindle Fire from Amazon by answering 25 questions about Maker of Angels. That's right! You can read an excellent western romance story, and, on Dec 8 (a Sunday), answer 25 questions about the story. Each individual question winner gets an Amazon $5 gift certificate, PLUS a bonus entry into the drawing for the Grand Prize...the brand new Kindle!"

How's that for an incentive to buy a $3.49 eBook?

Let's talk about the cost of marketing and results. I spent $300 on a "marketing" company a few months ago to promote another western-romance book. What happened? Not a damn thing. That's right, not one sale resulted from that expense. Then, I signed up for a blog tour for another few hundred dollars. Results? Nadda. Sure, it's nice for the ego to see these people promoting your book, but I'm not some stupid five-year-old kid who gets off on mommy's empty compliments. Nope. I'm a businessman who get excited by sales results, so I looked at the high end professional services. A couple big name promotion companies offered their services for a whopping $4,000 - $5,000 per month!

"Is there another alternative?" I wondered.

With 35+ years of marketing experience, I figured there had to be a better way. I began experimenting. It only takes a few dozen book sales in a short period of time to climb the charts at Amazon. I knew many people who would be happy to read my book if I gave it to them, so that is exactly what I did. Gift books cost me a net of about $1 each. Didn't take a genius to realize that for the $300 I wasted on each of those marketing companies, I could have "sold" 300 books and been flirting with top 100 standings on Amazon. In turn, those readers would, theoretically, generate more sales through word of mouth. I tested the theory and it worked. Now, let's apply that same theory to my Maker of Angels book release celebration.

A Kindle Fire will cost me around $150. Twenty-five $5 Amazon gift cards are another $125. My total cost is only $275 and will get a lot more attention than all those other paid services COMBINED! Am I being generous, as one person told me? That's the wrong word. I'm actually engaged in effective marketing for both my book and the building of my author-brand.

The important truth for authors is that we are not just artists. We are also independent business people, promoting a product we love and believe in. It is important for us to invest in our vision to bring it to the public. Watch for the results of this book release event in an upcoming blog. I will tell you the final numbers, and how effective I feel it was. You get to experiment right along with me . . . on my dollar. Better yet, come to the Maker of Angels release event and try to win a new Kindle Fire. You'll have great fun, read an awesome story and you just might win that Kindle. I'll even make this easy for you...here's the link to Amazon to buy Maker of Angels!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Survive Publishing.

I’m back…with books and an important message to fellow writers!


Ghost of Lost Eagle
Western/romance featuring Native American paranormal lore that comes alive in the Old West. Available now in eBook and paperback on Amazon.
Signed copies available directly from the author.
Amazon US (paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon CA (Kindle)
Amazon UK (paperback)


Maker of Angels
Western/romance story of forbidden love as a Native American woman and a naïve cowboy struggle to find a home in the tension of the Old West. Available in eBook or paperback on Amazon.
Signed copies available directly from the author.
Amazon US (paperback)
Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon CA (Kindle)
Amazon UK (paperback)


Have you ever been so busy that day and night run together in an unstopping collision of pressure? I suspect a lot of single moms know this all too well. The past few months have been that way for me, only on steroids (figuratively). Let's look at the pressures:

My Insurance Company - Demands began growing when my insurance company had to address the new government health insurance regulations. Clients were panicking and needed lots of education and help with their options. By itself, this would have been very manageable, but there’s more.

Publishing Books on Amazon - At the same time, I was learning to publish eBooks through Kindle Direct and paperbacks through CreateSpace. It was a time-consuming process in which I learned a lot and had to overcome numerous mistakes along the way.

Is that busy enough yet? The Western God of Chaos did not think so.

Marketing - Books don’t sell themselves…they need help, and I had no more free time, so I did what any good business person would do. I hired a “book promotion company” to kick off my marketing. It failed miserably. I stopped that waste of money pretty fast, losing a few hundred dollars and a couple months of precious time. Next, I signed up with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for a “set of promotional blog reviews” to bring attention to Ghost of Lost Eagle. It was an awkward learning curve as I made mistakes and learned what I can, and cannot, expect from such an experience. Overall, it was a good lesson and investment. I will do it again, only next time with some experience-based tweaking to make it more effective.

So, here I was with insurance demands, publishing pressures, marketing management, all vying for attention. My schedule was packed, but that nasty Chaos Demon was hardly through with me.

Death of Close Friend - In the middle of all this, my wonderful friend and long-time business partner, Carlan Steward, died unexpectedly. It hurt and my composure cracked, as I let my carefully choreographed balancing act grind to a halt. Family and social needs came first, followed by his widow’s request for me to take over his clients and help her wind down his insurance practice. Everything else got put on hold.

But wait…believe it or not, there’s more!

Family/Personal Issues - on top of all this, a family crisis surfaced and my personal health began to falter under the stress. I won't go into details, but they caused additional stress and disruption.

Oh yeah - there was one more distraction. I hired a video production company, EVEK Studios, to film a movie style trailer for my latest book, Maker of Angels. I took time away from other demands to attend the taping of the scenes and meet the actors. Despite the time pressures, this experience was a blast. Imagine the thrill of seeing your characters come to life as flesh and blood people. Here’s the finished video…I love it and hope you enjoy it:

Maker of Angels movie-style trailer

How does a writer handle so many distractions?

The simple truth is that we all have limits. I certainly exceeded mine. That's why I haven't been able to post a blog in a while. I'll try to get back on track now.

Fortunately, I learned to push back against those limits, stretching them far beyond their anticipated breaking point. I’m surprised I held up. In retrospect, I am thrilled now that I can see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but where is the lesson in all this?

At the time of this blog, my insurance clients are happy. Two books reached the market and are beginning to sell. A third book (an eBook re-issue of my science fiction story, The Last Human War) will be out in December. Also, the sequel to Ghost of Lost Eagle should be published soon, probably in January.

What advice do I have for fellow writers after these difficult times?

I’ll be honest…I did not survive this extreme experience alone. I have a wonderful marketing assistant (she asked to remain anonymous) who picked up slack when I got overwhelmed, acted as a sounding board when I was not at my best, and made a great drill instructor, kicking me in the ass when I gave in to exhaustion or depression. I could not have weathered this storm without her support.

Successful people in Halls of Fame all say the same thing. Their success came after years of perseverance, not from a single moment of glory. Anybody can be good for a day, or even a week, but real success is measured by repetition over time. It’s no different in writing. Just as Michael Jordan needed assists from teammates to score as many points as he did, writers need help to be the best they can be. From beta readers to editors to marketing assistants to literary agents and publishers, literary success is a collaboration that makes us better than we could possibly be by ourselves.

That’s the little secret I learned through these past few terrible months. It takes help to succeed in the literary world. Yes, writing is a solitary activity, but publishing and marketing require a team.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ghost of Lost Eagle blog tour Oct 16-Nov 6

My first ever "blog tour" begins next week (Oct. 16 and runs to Nov. 6).

Here is the link to the blog hosting organization's announcement:

Premier Virtual Author Blog Tours

Seventeen stops on this exciting book blog tour, featuring Ghost of Lost Eagle . . . help spread the word about this super tour.  I won't lie, I'm nervous.  Should I shine my shoes or have my teeth whitened?  Maybe I should buy a new shirt or dress up as a cowboy since the book is western-romance.  Seriously, I am excited about this new experience, so this should be fun and interesting for us all.  Watch for a surprise on each stop!

Help me support these book-loving bloggers by dropping by their sites on each tour stop.  I will be there, too, and will be happy to answer any questions!

Here is the tour schedule:

Follow the Tour:
 
So Many Precious books Oct 16 Review & Giveaway
Ordinary Girls Oct 17 Review
Ordinary Girls Oct 18 Guest Post
Two Kids & a Migraine Oct. 21 Review & Giveaway
Paperback Writer Oct 21 Guest Post
Genuine Jenn Oct 22 Review
From Isi Oct 24 Review
Butterfly-o-Meter Books Oct 25 Interview
caroleraesramblings.com Oct 28 Review
Faerietale Books Oct 29 Review
Books, Books & More Books Oct 30 Review
Rose & Beps Blog Oct 30 Guest Post
Lauries Thoughts & Reviews Oct 31 Review
Lauries Paranormal Thoughts Nov 1 Interview
Joy Story Nov 4 Review
Tracy Riva Books & Reviews Nov 5 Review
Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 6 Guest Post & Giveaway



Friday, September 27, 2013

Making of a Video Trailer - FUN!

Imagine writing a story and having all your characters come alive . . . real flesh and blood people, yet all slaves to your story vision.  I am living that reality right now.

Maker of Angels tells a fast-paced tale of forbidden love in the Old West.  It's 1855 when Colton Minar, a young journalist from Boston, travels to Sacramento gold country to discover hidden stories of the Gold Rush for his newspaper.  Along the way, he meets Tess Winslow - owner of a dust-town brothel, Kaga Ishta - a tormented half-breed Indian woman, and Clyde Hamlin - a former gunfighter masquerading as a mercantile owner.

These characters came to life over the last week as a video production company filmed excerpts from my book for an upcoming video trailer.  I admit, I had preconceived notions about the looks, voices and mannerisms of my persona creations.

Kaga hostage to Tess & thug

Holy cow!  These talented thespians shocked me with fantastic interpretations of my book-people. Main characters were played by Actor Jenna Cook as Tess, Matt Thompson as Cole, Jori Gonzales as Kaga Ishta and Rob Hayes as the irascible Clyde.

Jenna perfectly captured the violent temper and cold self-assurance of Tess, while Matt skillfully grew Cole from an innocent greenhorn to a confident gunfighter who becomes labeled as Maker of Angels for his gun-fighting speed. Rob brought frightening realism to Clyde, Cole's mentor in quick draw.  Jori shocked me with her portrayal of the emotionally troubled, outcast Indian, Kaga Ishta, as her character slowly falls in love with Colton and saves his life more than once.

You can't imagine the emotional rush of "meeting" your characters in real life.  Tess actually became the psychopath killer right before my eyes.  Kaga melted my heart when she kissed Cole passionately after telling him there was no place for an Indian woman and a white man to make a home.

Colton and Kaga in wilderness scene
The most exciting thing about this experience is that each actor "added" substance to the characters.  I knew Kaga would peer into Cole's eyes, searching for understanding of her concern, but the actress made it real.  It was AWESOME!

The same goes for almost every scene I watched being filmed.  Even the smallest roles, played by extras, added to the video experience.


Katie & Caroline filled
in as "soiled doves"
Two local women became so excited about the video shoot that they rented "tainted lady" costumes so they could be extras in the brothel scenes.

From the actors to the camera crew to the wonderful business owners of the Ore Cart Steakhouse and Saloon in the rustic Sierra Nevada town of Foresthill, this video trailer experience is a highlight in my life.

If you ever get a chance to watch one of your creations come to life, by all means DO IT!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Carlan Steward
CARLAN STEWARD - May 1945 to September 2013

I must apologize for being AWOL recently.  I try to post four times a month, but I have been incapable of writing for a while.  My business partner, and wonderful friend, Carlan, died a few weeks ago, unexpectedly.  This man was part of my life, eight hours a day, five days a week for thirty-two years.  We laughed.  We overcame obstacles, and shared both good and bad fortune.  During that time, we developed a kind of man-love usually found between fellow soldiers who have faced death together in combat.  There was nothing I would not do for Carlan, and I know he felt the same way.  A void now exists in my heart, one that can never be filled, a place where his memories wait patiently for moments when I need encouragement or, perhaps, just to a safe place to hang out.  Goodbye my friend.  I miss you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Frankenstein - Video Trailers

In my story, Maker of Angels, Miss Nelly owns the Empty Nest, a house for "soiled doves" in the dust town of Tumbleweed. She's a madam, and she's careful to make sure young journalist-turned-cowboy, Colton, understands that her interest in him is entirely personal, not professional. He enjoys pleasures of the flesh for the first time with this beautiful redhead. The amazingly wonderful experience keeps him content in her clutches for nearly a month, but it doesn't last.

Hoping this will be the room for
the seduction of Colton.
Cole is supposed to be traveling to Sacramento to chronicle the gold rush for his Boston newspaper. Eventually, sex is not enough to keep him around, so he announces that he's leaving to complete his writing assignment. Miss Nelly explodes in anger.

Long red braids fly wildly as she tries to hit him with rapid fire projectiles of her China. This fails to assuage her anger, so this former lover sends assassins to kill the man who spurned her.

Many months later, Cole discovers the truth. Miss Nelly is actually Tess Winslow, the fastest lady gunfighter in the country and wanted for murder in three territories. The Empty Nest was her hiding place. She's really a cold-blooded killer, and she's not done with him after he leaves.

What does this story have to do with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?

People building. I feel like Victor Frankenstein as I create people. Sure, my characters are fictional despite seeming quite real. Tess, the gorgeous seductress with a fiery temper, is a loathsome killer. Cole, the naïve, sweet traveler, turns out to be tough. Women swoon over him, yet his humility leaves him unaware of his effect on them. These creations, good and bad, are MY "monsters." They come to life through my story, but even that is not enough to fuel this Frankenstein analogy.

Evek Studios is a local production company. They build great video advertisements and commercials. I hired them to make a video trailer for Ghost of Lost Eagle. They have actors (male and female) who fit the descriptions in the story, and have found a fantastic period-correct 1850's hotel to shoot the seduction scene. Everything is going according to plan . . . or, is it?

I just realized my characters are coming to life; real flesh and blood. Cole's reaction to Miss Nelly's advances will be played out by actors. My Frankenstein-like creations are coming to real life. I am giddy over this and can't wait to see my monsters in the flesh.

Mwahahaha <wringing hands and wearing evil grin>

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Painting for the Mind - Imagery

In writing, setting a scene properly can build powerful images in the minds of readers. However, unnecessary details can bore them to tears, and inadequate scene description can strip the angst out of a passage.


Ask yourself, "How would Helen Keller describe this homemade candle?" Maybe, writers should close our eyes and draw descriptions from senses other than vision.

Consider this jungle scene in a war story:

Temperatures climbed. Thick green vines hung from drooping trees, creating a sun-tight canopy above a lush layer of ferns. It was so thick even jungle creatures stayed to a few well-worn game trails. Tree leeches, thriving in the perpetually wet humidity, dropped on any warm-blooded mammals unfortunate enough to travel below. Decaying mulch ran deep, often sucking a man's leg up to the knee as he attempted to slog silently in pursuit of nearby enemy soldiers. Thank God for the safety of smokeless flames from the Sterno cans we packed to heat food and purify water.
 
Does this scene provide a vivid image? Yes, but does it provide the right imagery for the story?
 
Here's another example of the same scene:
 
Sweat dripped from the tip of my nose. I brushed squirming tree-leeches off my camo sleeve before leaning to one side, pulling my foot from knee-deep, rotting muck. In the low light of the heavy canopy above, I lost track of our game trail, the only way we could advance through thick ferns. Sounds of enemy soldiers carried through dense vegetation, making me thankful for smokeless flames from our Sterno as we heated food and purified water.
 
Notice both scenes provide vivid imagery. The first scene with 96 words concentrates on the visual image of the setting, while the second scene with only 77 words focuses on the consequences of the setting, thereby adding to tension.
 
How do writers determine the right detail to use in a setting? Those decisions can make the difference between a lackluster story and a page-turner. Writing would be easy if all readers brought the same expectations and life experiences to every book. The key issue is to figure out what readers bring to the party.
 
Fortunately, genres provide some guidelines about reader expectations. For example, YA and NA book buyers often want fast-paced tales with intense characters. Settings and scenes tend to be less important than character development and a dynamic plot. On the other hand, older readers enjoy more detail and are willing to allow a plot to develop more slowly. They are also far more likely to expect details in a story to be well-researched and accurate.

Another good way to learn about readers is to review successful books by other authors. For example, a book like Fifty Shades of Gray gives a good example of the level of expectations for one class of readers. If I planned to write erotica, I would study the successful books in that genre. If I planned to write literary fiction and appeal to typical readers who follow such a style, I would study books like Forrest Gump or Bridges of Madison County. Scene development in such books is a blueprint outlining the needs of those readers.

General thoughts about imagery in writing:

1) Detail provides a framework for the mental picture. Make sure the frame highlights the image you want readers to experience.

2) Like dialog, description must have a purpose. It must advance the plot, or it is empty filler that readers will skip over.

3) Keep it simple. One of my favorite methods for creating imagery is to give readers the basic parts of a scene, and let their imaginations fill in the rest.

4) Paint active mental pictures:  instead of saying "it was a hot day," talk about the dog in the shade that wouldn't bother to chase the nearby cat because of the heat, or let the reader "smell" the decaying dead man in the other room, rather than telling the reader about the dead guy.

5) Think outside the box. Use plot devices in scenes to advance the story. For example, in Ghost of Lost Eagle, I needed to introduce an impending flashflood to my main character. What better plot device than Tuck's horse that senses the coming flood and refuses to continue up the canyon? The imagery is palpable while he tries to coax his unwilling horse further up the gulch. The obstinate animal made a perfect plot device to enhance tension, advance the story and provide realism.

Painting pictures with words is our craft. Scenes make everything else in stories possible, so they are the key to imagery. When readers are allowed to supply essential parts of the overall vision, they feel the author has connected with them.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Your Well Primed? (Productivity)

Have you ever pumped water from a hand pumped well? If you haven't, you should find someone with an old well and experience it. There are some wonderful life lessons in such a simple piece of technology.
 
Dad & me 10 years before pump lesson.
My dad bought a campsite at Bates Pond in rural South Carver when I was young. He told us how much fun camping would be. He lied. Water came from a pump on top of a pipe sticking out of the ground. Dad explained about "the immense pool of ground water below us" and how I had to take my turn working the pump handle to keep the family's water supply up for everything from drinking to cooking to bathing. All I knew was that my arms and shoulders burned after fifteen minutes of my one hour chore.

The last responsibility at the end of each pumping session was to fill a metal bucket with fresh water and set it on the nearby picnic table.

One hot day, it was my turn on the pump. There sat the bucket of clean, fresh water, and I had just finished a long hike deep into the woods. I was mighty thirsty. That water hit the spot. I drank from the bucket, letting excess water spill past my cheeks to cool my chest. Most of it ended up on the ground. I didn't care. Figured I'd just refill the bucket when I was done.

I began working the pump handle, but nothing came out. In fact, the handle moved with unusual ease.

"Daddy!" I shouted for help. "Daddy, the pump's broken."

My father set down his axe and came to my aid. He lifted the handle a couple times.

"No problem, son. Hand me the bucket of water."

"Umm . . . there isn't any bucket of water."

"Sure there is. It's on the bench over there."

I soon got a heated lecture on why that bucket of water was so important. He explained how manual pumps worked, saying that we had to "prime" them by pouring water into the valve body. Then, he told me, the pump could build a suction and lift water up from the pool ground water. To complete my lesson, he handed me two buckets, each with a single wire handle, and sent me down to the local lake to fetch priming water. I asked why two buckets. He explained that one was needed to prime the well, and the other was needed to make sure I never screwed up like that again. It worked. The wire handles cut painfully into the meat of my palms during the one mile walk back from the lake. I could only walk a hundred yards at a time before having to massage my hands.

What does this have to do with writing?
Writing is no different than the old style, manual pump design. Sometimes our literary "pump" loses its "prime" and needs a little help to regain the ability to pull from our vast pool of creativity. I took the lesson dad taught me as a child and applied it to my writing. I always leave a surplus bucket of ideas at the end of each writing session to help prime my writing well after I have been away for a while.

Here is an example of that concept. Let's say I wrote the paragraph (below) before going to bed. I would add "priming" notes (in parentheses) for when I return to the story:

The children played quietly in the car while Megan and I argued about our child custody agreement. Neither of us noticed when the car slipped into gear and began rolling toward the lake. I heard the splash and saw Megan's car drifting into deeper water as it nosed down and began to sink.

(Notes:  How do I save the kids? Do I experience the horror of seeing their frightened faces in the rapidly diminishing pocket of air by the back window? What about reviving them if they have drowned? Do they experience brain damage from anoxia? Does Megan feel responsible for not setting the parking brake or leaving the car running? Can I . . . or will I . . . use her negligence against her in the custody battle?)

As you can see from the "priming" notes, I should be able to jump right back into the emotional grist of the story, quickly refreshing the tap into my pool of creativity. This kind of primer notation can diminish "writer's block" and produce increased author efficiency.

Thanks for the lesson, dad. I hated carrying those heavy buckets from the lake, but that simple punishment served me well, as applied the concept many times in life. Miss you, Pop.


Shameful promo:  If you enjoy my writing blogs, please try my book, Ghost of Lost Eagle (western-romance with strong paranormal element). It is getting great reviews.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Sitting Syndrome...Writer's Ass

Writing and personal health.

I was big, like 120 pounds "too big," when I started writing novels seriously. Hour after hour passed at the computer while I munched through literary landscapes fueled by chips, chocolate, raisins, cookies and pretzels...all washed down with Pepsi. Stories poured out. Life seemed good, well except for my growing writer's ass.

One day, I could not walk. Severe pain shot through my right foot. My doctor convinced me to get a blood test, something I had managed to avoid for at least five years, in trying to figure out why I could not walk. It was strange. There was minimal swelling but the searing pain was so bad I could not even move it, much less put pressure on it. Tests showed one problem. Diabetes.

Doc put me on what I call sugar-dope to lower levels, and the foot pain slowly passed. Sugar levels bounced between normal and mildly elevated. During this time, I wrote four new novels. Productivity was high, so I didn't much care about the weight or diabetes, as long as that stupid pill could control it.

Severe pain returned, only it was in my other foot. "What the hell?" I thought as the pain was so bad I could not even sit at the computer. My solution? I bought an HP laptop so I could write with my foot elevated. During the next six months, the severe pain came back in my right foot again and then in my knee! Writing productivity plummeted.

The days of ignorant bliss ended. Pain was from diabetic neuropathy. There were only two ways to fix it. 1) Start taking insulin shots, or 2) get rid of the diabetes. I DON'T do needles!

Today, I weigh 268, 50 pounds less, and I'm getting regular exercise. My goal is 205. I stopped taking my sugar-dope twenty pounds ago. While sugar levels still jump if I skip a day of walking, or if I eat too much, I can completely control the diabetes without drugs.

Why am I writing about this? Simple. Writing is work. Sure, you won't build an aerobic heart rate sitting at your desk, but it requires stamina and mental acuity to write in long durations. Since losing the weight and ending drug therapy, my literary productivity has nearly doubled. It's easy to knock out 2K words in an evening and 10-12K on a weekend. My clothes fit really loose, and the neuropathy has vanished. Even my broad writer's ass is getting tighter.

Look out world. I will have three more books on the market in the next six months!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Turned Down a Publishing Deal

About three weeks ago, I was offered a publishing contract from a traditional publisher for my thriller story, Faces of Hatred. The deal included a small advance, books in three formats (hard cover, eBook and audio book) and paperbacks after the story sold enough of the other formats to justify the trade paperback printing/distribution costs.

I was thrilled. My artistic achievement, Faces of Hatred, finally found a home.

I spent the last 35 years in the insurance business, often analyzing contracts, so naturally, I scrutinized the document. One question after another surfaced. I ran these issues by my agent, and she shared many of my concerns.

"No problem," I thought. "We'll negotiate the questionable issues, sign the deal and get started on the production process. I'm only a few days away from my dream coming true."

While the agent negotiated, I dug deeper into the company, beginning with a look at their existing offerings through Amazon. I saw a distressing pattern. High prices. Worse still, I didn't recognize the names of most of their authors. Sure, Dan Brown, Stephen King or Tom Clancy can command such prices, but what about an unknown, debut thriller author like me?

Consider the excellent, paranormal novel by Sass Cadeaux, The Secrets of Albion Falls. It's a great full-length story at $3.49 for 330 pages . . . consumers win. They get a wonderful novel, not some short story or novella being hyped as a "novel." How could I possibly compete against a quality novel offered at such a fair price when my eBook would cost three times as much?

In addition, the publisher's editor wants me to cut a number of chapters out of my book, chapters that graphically illustrate the trauma suffered by the people (faces) who are harmed by terrorism. Those chapters are central to the story. I'm not sure my artistic concept and theirs match.

Other questions arose. Each one threatening to reduce the chances for my book's success. Am I tempted to sign anyway? Of course. But, after much thought, I sent them a rejection that ended with the following note, "Ultimately, both publisher and author should be excited about collaborating on a new book for the public. I realized I do not have enthusiasm for this deal, hence my final decision."

Bottom line--the deal didn't feel right. I have just rejected an offer for my thriller for the second time in six months. Neither company appeared to be a healthy field in which to grow my dream. Yet, many aspiring authors would have snapped up the deal will little hesitation. Does that make me stupid? Perhaps.


What about eBook pricing, since this is one of the core issues in my decision?

I am a consumer advocate. Businesses have a moral/ethical responsibility to give readers "value received" in exchange for their hard earned money. Some "indie" books masquerade as novels. Lately, I have seen short stories and novellas promoted on Amazon as if they are full-sized books. That's just wrong.

Before I purchase a book on Amazon, I check the page number count to make sure I am getting a full-length story. If an eBook only has 100 pages, and Amazon asks $3.29, there's no way I will buy it. My own western-romance-paranormal novel, Ghost of Lost Eagle, is priced at $3.49 for 366 pages in keeping with my consumer belief that a penny a page is a reasonable price for an eBook. If the book ends up being a great story, then it becomes a great find, and I tell everyone I know about it.
 
My decision to reject the traditional book publishing offer might haunt me in the future, but I don't care. I have to be true to my values. I will only support a book that I love, and at a price I believe is fair for readers. To me, that's a win:win. Now, where am I going to find that special publisher who agrees with my values? <fingers tightly crossed>

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bird in the Hand? (Quitting the day job)

I earn a good living as an insurance broker . . . been at it for over 35 years.

Should I quit my job to write full time?

That's a heady question. If I quit, I am walking away from financial security in a job I have come to hate. My clients are the only good thing about this business. Insurance companies could not care less about the people they insure. It's all about profits. My unhappiness is because I care about people, so I often find myself angry at one company or another about how my clients are being treated. It's gotten so bad that I don't want to start my day every morning. Being a responsible adult, I grumble and "go to work" with knots in my stomach.

Back in 2009, I tested the writing business by releasing my first ever science fiction book, Space Chronicles: The Last Human War. What a thrill! Writing and editing the book never felt like a chore. I couldn't wait each day to get my insurance work completed so I could plunge into my fantasy world and add to it.

When It came time to seek a publisher, I made a bold choice. I would build my own publishing company and produce the book.

Contracts had to be negotiated with Barnes & Noble and a national wholesale distributor. Neither accepted "self-published" books at that time, so I registered the American Writers Publishing Company with Bowker, bought ISBN numbers, contracted with a publisher and purchased cover art. In addition, I bought necessary software . . . CoverPro, CorelDraw and InDesign. I had over $3000 into the company before I held a single book in my hands.

I pulled the trigger! Using all those programs I had acquired, I "made" a real book--not an eBook or plastic binder book, but a for-real paperback book with full-color covers, perfect binding and some kind of special UV coating that the printer snookered me into buying. He said it would prevent the cover colors from fading. I spent $4,000 for 1000 500-page books that were priced at $12.99. Now what?

Lesson # 42:  books don't sell themselves.

Yep, I opened a cool website about the book and watched for three days for the orders to start rolling in. They didn't. Ooops. Another failure.

At that time, I had spent over thirty years marketing insurance, so I did what I do best. I started advertising. Bought some internet ads, put fliers in store windows and even put an ad in the local high school yearbook. I checked the computer twenty times a day to count all the sales coming in through my PayPal account. NADA!

That's when I figured out that selling books was going to be a hard job. I bought "How-to" books on paperback marketing and followed the advice. Some things worked a little, some things did not. Then, I discovered the magic formula. Ironically, the solutions - there were two of them - came from 1) one of the earliest things I learned in the insurance business, and 2) from a friend who owned an indie book store. Between Centers of Influence marketing and creative book signings, I managed to sell most of that first edition over a six-month period. Even made a small profit over all my start up expenses and after donating some to Books for Soldiers, an organization that ships books to soldiers in combat zones.

I have just released my second book, Ghost of Lost Eagle, and I am learning that marketing eBooks is vastly different than I expected. Nevertheless, I am determined to be successful.

Now, for the big question. Should I quit my reliable, but unhappy, day-job to invest all my time in marketing and writing. If I do, I will go from a comfortable income to zero. Yes, I can live on savings and investments for a couple years, but the starving artist gig can't last forever.

I plan to make that big decision by the end of the year. What would you do?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ghost of Lost Eagle - released!

I am proud to announce the release of my western-romance-paranormal story, Ghost of Lost Eagle on Amazon today.

Click here to visit my Amazon page. While you're there, please drop by my author page.

Release Parties - there will be two release parties.

The first party is the Release Day Party on the original planned release date of July 10, 2013.

The second is the Grand Release Celebration. It is scheduled four days later in order to hold a Q&A contest based about the story.

Prizes - 1) free e-books, 2) autographed cover art posters and 3) Amazon gift cards will be won during events at each party. On the Sunday Grand Release Celebration, the prize in a creative writing contest will be a short story written by me and dedicated to the winner. It with all rights will be exclusively owned by the winner.

Information and sign up for Release Day Party.

Information and sign up for the Grand Release Celebration.

Please join me at either party (or both) to participate in the event(s) and have fun. Thank you for reading my blog. Hope to meet you at the parties.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ghost of Lost Eagle - steps to publication.

It's here! Ghost of Lost Eagle is done and will be released on Amazon, July 10th.

What has the experience been like?

I can't speak for all authors, but this journey for me has been full of trials and tribulations. It turns out that writing and editing the story was easy compared to preparing it for publication, building the marketing infrastructure and coordinating the vast array of "things-to-do" before the book even hits the market. Here's the abridged version of my experiences so far:

1) Writing - As you know, everything begins with writing a book. Ghost of Lost Eagle is a western romance with an important paranormal element. It was a blast to write. The whole experience of researching the Old West in 1875 was fascinating and educational. Studying Native American lore, and then, making it come alive in the story, was challenging and fun. As characters evolved through the story, they almost demanded certain surprises in the ending. Nothing could be more fun.

2) Polishing the Stone - Beta readers are the difference between a good story and a polished story. They turn the jagged stone into the polished diamond, and MY beta readers are the best! I owe much to them for the critical comments, suggestions and inspiration they provided. This story grew from its initial manuscript to a vibrant tale, complete with fleshed-out characters and complex storyline, thanks to their feedback.

3) What now?  This is the uncomfortable point where an author shifts from the art of storytelling to the business of putting books into readers' hands. The first thing I did was to build a cover. It started out as a fun project and morphed into my own little hell. Each member of the story screamed, "Put me on the cover!"  The Indian ghost and spirit-guide lone wolf demanded cover space. One night, I even dreamed about those suckers . . . the writer's own creations haunting him. (Hmm, does that sound like the beginning of another story?) Anyway, Tuck and Sass, the two main characters, wanted the cover all for themselves. My problem was that the story would not be possible without all these personalities.

How did I resolve this dilemma? I found a good cover for the western romance that suggested tension between the two main characters, but it did nothing for the paranormal side. Another cover did a great job showing the paranormal Native American theme, but I could not find a good way to insert the MCs. I ran my problem past a wonderful friend who suggested I borrow a paranormal element from one cover and insert it into the other as part of the title. (She's a genius!) The "O" in Ghost became a full moon with a howling wolf silhouette in it, and she suggested the gold font color. I fell in love with that cover design instantly.

4) When a writer has a book and a cover ready, the next job is marketing...right? Wrong! There's a bunch of infrastructure needed to successfully promote a book. I did not know the extent of "stuff" I needed to do. First, there needs to be a website for the author, a place where people can read about the writer's books, background, ongoing announcements and to build a "presence" as an author. Second, social media is critical to selling books in today's world. I had to build a Facebook author page, set up a reliable email that can be accessed from any computer, establish a Twitter "friend-list" of reliable people who will help to spread announcements and sign up with additional social media like Google+, LinkedIn, GoodReads and WattPad. All this infrastructure should be in place before marketing could begin. I did not know how to accomplish all these things, but a wonderful friend/fellow author stepped in to save my sorry cyber-inept ass.


5) Done. Can I release my book now? Nope. Before a book is released, there needs to be "buzz" created about it. There's nothing worse for an author's morale than to release a book and see no sales other than purchases by mom, sis and a couple best friends. Before starting that promotional engine, there is one more critical task that needs to be completed. ARC (Advance Reader Copy) books are free books given out before the release date to selected people. Those special people, in turn, agree to read the story and provide honest reviews for Amazon and sites like Goodreads and Wattpad. Who do you pick?  People you trust. Professionals who review new books. Bloggers who review and promote new stories. This means the book has to be in final form BEFORE it can be sent out to them. It is essential that the book have reviews available on the day it goes "live" to help people decide to buy the book.

Another surge of effort will produce those finished Amazon MOBI and protected PDF files for the ARC readers. For an experienced author, it's probably a three hour job. For a neophyte like me, it would take days . . . even weeks. Fortunately, I had the wonderful assistance of my aforementioned best friend/author. I could not have done it without her. By the way, I'd love to give her public credit, but she's shy and asked me not to. Anyway, this all takes place at least three weeks before the "Release Date" to allow time for reading and posting reviews.

6) So, the MOBI and PDF files went out to the ARC readers and I set a release date. What's next? Now, it's finally time to begin the pre-release hype. Tweets, comments on Facebook and notices on my website are getting the process started. Tweets about what? Easy. Announce the release date, price and story summary with links to my website, author page, email and other social media. What else needs to be done?

7) "Release Party" - If you are wondering what a release party is, you're in good company. I had heard the term before but wondered how I serve punch and cupcakes over the internet. I admit to being perplexed. My friend/mentor explained how to set it up. Turns out, it's not nearly as daunting as I imagined. In fact, it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Online games include a cyber scavenger hunt, a book story Q&A and a community chain-writing story (my favorite) and will run with a series of prizes. The prizes include free e-books, autographed book-cover posters, gift cards to Amazon and a special grand prize. I chose to do two book release parties. One, the day of the book release (July 10), will have an Ask-the-Author component, special back story releases and prizes. The second will be four days later on Sunday, July 14. It is the Grand Release Celebration and will be more comprehensive (with prizes), as well as a special Top Prize.

8) What happens next? My official release is five days away. I am getting excited. My job now is to send out announcements of the Release Parties and to follow through with my ARC readers to get as many initial reviews as possible for the release day. It seems to take me about three hours a day to get all my chores done. My marketing advisors and a couple book bloggers tell me there will be even more responsibilities after the book starts selling.

I am a bit overwhelmed by all this hoopla, infrastructure and time-demanding social media. Along the way, I hired a marketing company that is supposed to schedule me for a "blog tour", tweet blasts to over 100K people, interviews and some other things that I don't yet understand. I'll learn as I go.

The simple truth is, I just want to be a writer. I'm not enjoying the business side of being an author, but if I want success, there is no other choice. Writing is an art. Publishing is a business. Commercial success is a combination of both. I must develop skill in both, if I want lots of readers to enjoy my stories. I do.

Well, it's time for my cheap plug, so please forgive me. I would love to have you join me at my Release Party on July 10, or better yet, come win the special prize on Sunday, July 14th at the Grand Release Celebration. Thanks, for indulging my personal pitch, and I hope to see you there. Send your friends, too. It'll be fun.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Confusion or Chaos? (Checklist)

I'm a control freak, I admit it. In my business, being in charge works well. I gather information, assess options, make decisions and move on. Decision-making is probably my strong suit, and my 35 years in a successful business attests to this winning formula. But, my "ways" are failing me as a writer.

Here's my new book, Ghost of Lost Eagle. I'm proud of it and looking forward to the big release on Amazon, July 11.

What's my problem?

I don't know what to do next. The book is ready to go, but now begins the marketing, promotions and advertising. Like I've done for 35 years, I turned to professionals for the next phase. Writing the book turns out to be the easy part. I find myself lost now. The marketing company gave me a list of things they will do but no instructions on the timing. I asked them which things we should do and when. They said, "It's up to you, the author."

Uh, hang on a second. I am confused, a bit intimidated and uncertain how to decide on the timing of activities. For example, how do I go on a "blog tour?" I called my travel agent to book one, and she asked what country they are in. What kind of explosives do I need for a Twitter "blast?"

Seriously, I need a timeline. I have their list, but I don't understand what needs to be done in what order. I was told to send out ARC (Advance Review Copies free ebooks) to people who are willing to read my story and make reviews on Amazon. In fact, they said these ARC reviews are very important to my ultimate success. Great, let's do it!

Wait a minute. They want me to solicit a bunch of reviews but the official book release is not for another three weeks. How will my readers post their reviews before the book goes "live" on Amazon? I don't get it.

They talk about blog tours that they will schedule, but how can I post links to the book on blogs when it's not even on line yet? How am I supposed to make decisions on matters I don't fully understand?

Fortunately, my coordinator with Fostering Success talked me down from the ledge this week. When I originally asked for the timing of everything, I was told "It's up to you." Huh? I had no idea what kind of timing should exist between events. I am completely new at internet marketing. What should I do first? And second? And third? I needed a timeline, not a generalized comment about everything being up to me.

Why am I writing about this for you, my readers?

My experience points out the importance of good communications with your marketing company for a smooth campaign. My PR coach had no idea how naïve I was. When she said in the beginning that everything was up to the author, she was trying to be respectful and let the author/client know they are there to serve at the writer's convenience. With one simple telephone conversation, we outlined a marketing plan, complete with timing for the ARC requests, a release date, things I need to accomplish along the way and a systematic order for getting everything done. Twitter blasts, blog tours and regular promotional releases are on my list now that I have an idea what they are and how they fit into the overall timing. Professional reviews will have to wait until I have ISBN numbers and some will not agree to review until I have a physical book.

I feel much better now.

The point of this blog is to share my own learning curve so my readers avoid making the same mistakes. I can move mountains as long as someone gives me a place to pile the rubble. Things will be accomplished very quickly and in the order provided by my marketing company . . . now that I HAVE a checklist! I feel much better and hope you benefit from my angst.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pick My Book Cover

This is getting exciting. I'm down to the last steps before releasing my new novel, Ghost of Lost Eagle. Problem! I'm struggling with cover choices. How about giving me some feedback?

Which cover is best?  Or, is neither cover good enough?

Here are the two covers I am thinking about:
















What do you think?  Please let me know in the comment sections below, or you can message me privately at:
deansault@outlook.com

Thank you for your help!

ARC (Advance Review Copies)

Ghost of Lost Eagle will be published soon. I need Advanced Review Copy (ARC) readers who will receive a free pre-release copy of this western romance paranormal story in exchange for an honest review on Amazon.

Here is the story summary:

     Mason "Tuck" Tucker meets Sass Thornton when she saves him from death in a flash flood. She dubs him "dumb-ass" for foolishly entering a box canyon during a rain storm. He will hear this label many times as she fights against her own unwanted attraction to him.
     Sass's father, Phil, owns the cattle ranch that she runs and has been keeping two secrets from his daughter. Despite her contempt for Tuck, the father hires him to manage the bunkhouse where growing racial tension between white cowhands and Mexican vaqueros threatens the ranch. Tuck surprises Phil with his tough and effective management skill. The old man takes Tuck into his confidence, revealing that the troublemaker in the bunkhouse is a deadly gunfighter and terrorizing the other ranch hands.
     Throughout the book, Tuck is haunted by howls of a lone wolf that nobody else hears. Recurring dreams of an old Indian medicine man trouble him until the ghost wakes Tuck in time to save him from an assassination attempt. The ghost warns the young man about a destiny he must soon face.
     How do the ghost of Lost Eagle, the lone wolf and Tuck's new found love, Sass, come together in a life and death struggle?  What happens when the murderer in the bunkhouse seeks revenge?  Will Tuck leave the woman he comes to love to save the aunt who raised him?

If you would like to be one of my ARC reader/reviewers, please contact me through my website or author email:

www.authordeansault.com

deansault@outlook.com

Thank you for your consideration.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Opinions and Advance Reader Copies

Issue #1:   I need your help. Ghost of Lost Eagle is being prepared for release. That's a good thing. However, my book cover received strong support from everyone except my marketing and PR company. They don't like it. I'm torn. I like the cover, but the pros feel it would be better to have just the cowboy or just the woman. Before I select another cover, I need opinions from potential readers about the issues of concern for my marketing team.

Title:  Ghost of Lost Eagle
Genre - western/romance/paranormal

1)  Do the black areas detract from the cover's appeal?
2)  Would you prefer just to see a lone cowboy?
3)  Is the cowboy's facial expression good or bad?
4)  Does this style look old-fashioned?
5)  If so, is old-fashioned a good or a bad thing?
You can answer in the comment section, or send me a private note at the email address listed in the next issue.

Issue # 2:   My promotion company wants me to release 75 ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) for reviews. These free ebook copies only carry one request. ARC reviewers are asked to post an honest review of the book on Amazon. Let me repeat the important part..."honest review."  If the ARC reviewer doesn't like the story or something about it, those valid concerns are both appreciated and valuable for future buyers who are thinking about purchasing the book.

If you are interested in receiving an ARC and you will give me an honest opinion about the story, then please leave your name and contact information in the comments section, or you can send me a direct request for the ARC copy at:

DeanSault@outlook.com

Thank you so much for your feedback.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Accidents Writing Method

I've been asked how I come up with writing ideas. The real truth is I often don't know where they come from, but I learned a long time ago to take an initial idea and write with an open mind.

What does that mean?

Every manuscript begins with a simple plot idea. For example, my first western-romance began life as a joke. One of my good friends likes traditional westerns, so I figured I'd throw him a curve. I would write a classic western that would end in a gunfight between the fastest female gun fighter in the country and a young male upstart nicknamed the Maker of Angels. Figured my buddy would never see that coming.

Here's what happened...

The story got away from me. As I crafted a plot device to precipitate that male-female showdown, the story grew. It exploded into a tale of forbidden love between a white cowboy, Colton, and an outcast Indian woman, Kaga Ishta, in a world where hatred between races was the rule.

What started as a subplot morphed into conflict between two tough women for the love of Cole. Along the way, he grows from a naïve young journalist into the Maker of Angels, a deadly gunfighter with blinding speed. In the end, he faces Tess Winslow, the lady gunfighter, with the captive Indian as the prize. But, before he meets her in the climactic event, his quick-draw mentor warns him, "She's faster'n you, Cole."

Does my writing method have a name?

Kind of. I call it the Happy Accident Writing Method. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my stories don't come from countless hours of tedious plotting, detailed character outlines and predetermined plot. That just does not work for me. The energy and action in my books comes from freedom to "follow the story" as it unfolds. I love dead ends and plot walls. I thrive when my characters are trapped or in hopeless trouble. That is where creativity gets a workout . . . solving problems. In essence, my stories begin with a concept. From there, open-minded exploration leads me along the general plot. My only rule of thumb is to wander as much as I want, so long as I end up back on the plot.

Does this mean I have no fixed ideas when I start writing?

Oh, heck no. Every writer has a signature style. For example, all three of my most recent stories share certain similarities. I respect women readers so my stories provide complex plots with intricate storylines. Female main characters are not weak little ladies hoping a man will make them whole. Quite the contrary. Most are tough as nails while my male MCs are equally strong, often knocking heads with their women counterparts. Another signature of my writing is action. I get bored easily, so my stories carry as much pace as I can support without burning out readers.

I hope readers trust that they can always count on my stories to keep those promises. Whether a fan reads one of my western-romances, a thriller or sci-fi, the overall theme will always keep the promise of strong characters, intricate plots, challenging pace and unexpected turns. And, a lot of it comes from "happy accidents."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indie Authors – Craft Your Book Cover

“Covers sell books.” Have you ever heard that expression?

Covers are supposed to catch visual attention and be interesting enough to get a potential buyer to read my title and blurb. Actual purchasing decisions follow if the reader likes my description.
 
Would you read the blurb?
Can a cover influence a reader's decision to buy? Of course. The old expression, “a picture says a thousand words,” suggests that if I am careful about cover design, it is possible to enhance the impact of the blurb. Cover art, though, can be a double-edged sword. It establishes expectations that must be matched by the story, or readers may feel let down.
 
The story on the left is a horror story. Does the cover art match the genre?
 
How do I approach cover design and layout? I consider six issues:

First, know my limits. I am NOT a graphic artist, so while I do know how to manipulate pictures, fonts and layout, I generally run my ideas through the pros. If I need a detail to be altered, I prefer to engage skills of the artist to achieve the change(s) even though I own Corel Draw, Corel Paint, Adobe InDesign, CoverPro and MarketingPro software...just in case I need to make changes myself.

Second, graphic artists are not writers. They will never “know” my story like I do. It is MY responsibility to communicate exactly what scene or images I want. What is the most important scene in the book? Is there a general theme to the story? Do I want character images on the cover? Remember, if I include detailed character images, then those had better match what my reader will discover inside the story.

Third, I call this element “mood.”  If I wrote a horror story, I want a dark “mood” established by the cover art. In my western-romance stories, conflict between a cowboy and cowgirl will always be represented in the cover along with suggestion of rough living in the old west. In my sci-fi book, The Last Human War, chapter five includes an epic space battle where two massive battle cruisers collide. My graphic artist developed the scene. His first concept was close but not exactly what I wanted. We worked together until it met my expectations.

What mood do you think this book cover on the right represents? This story will be about children who have been programmed to kill. It's a cross between a thriller and a mystery. Does this cover get the message across? What about the boy on the cover? If the boy in the story is a blue-eyed blond, then the cover needs to be changed to match the character descriptions.

Fourth, ownership. I do NOT use “free” or “leased” graphic art. Why? I do not want others to steal my images and use them in any way. I like to make posters, book marks, web pages and other promotional items from the images that I OWN. Also, if I own the artwork, I never have to worry about somebody demanding that I pay them for some part of an image that they own, but was included in a free image I imported.

I own this 100%
Fifth, credit. Most graphic artists get very little credit for their talent. I believe it is ethical and respectful to give credit for inspired artwork to the creator. If I help them to grow their business, they tend to bend over backwards to work with me on creating a fantastic cover.

Sixth, color. Did you know that the predominant color of a cover suggests a theme? Take a look at this interesting color chart provided to me by literary agent, Stacey Donaghy. I love this information. Thank you, Stacey!


All this talk about making a good cover doesn’t help much unless you know where you can find good graphic artists to do your bidding. Author Sass Cadeaux recently referred me to several cover art resources. I engaged the services of one of them. Thank you, Sass!

Let me introduce you to that company: SelfPubBookCovers.com.

http://selfpubbookcovers.com/

I’m quite impressed with the quality of their pre-made covers and the simple tools they offer to build cover fonts that achieve the writer’s story image. They purchase covers from a number of graphic artists and sell them at outrageously low prices. In addition, I needed major changes to one cover I bought, and the owner of the company, Rob, contacted the artists on my behalf and produced a fantastic custom cover that will be revealed in a few weeks. The best part? I OWN the final artwork 100%!

Building a quality cover in this day and age is simple. Indie authors can compete successfully with the best traditional cover art designers. Just follow the simple six guidelines above and your book will look fantastic.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Page Turners, Part II—PLOT

Back in December, I posted my thoughts about the relationship between writing structure and pace for creating “page turners.”

Here’s the link if you missed it:


In today’s blog, I’d like to share my thoughts about the first element in creating a fast-paced story—a great plot.

What is plot?

Everybody knows that plot is the primary story line, but it’s really more than that. Any story idea can be used to generate a work of fiction, but what is the difference between a run-of-the-mill story idea and a kick-ass plot?

A great plot must produce strong tension. How does it do that? Conflict. All tension is driven by conflict, but not all conflict creates great tension.

Consider Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises. To me, it sucked. Conflict came principally from internal angst of the main character who loves the female lead, but can never consummate the relationship with her, yet she beds several other men during the story. In my opinion, it was little more than a soap-opera-by-book before television popularized the sport of sexual infidelity. Its action scenes bored me. I suspect its success back in 1926 was probably due to public voyeurism as establishment readers enjoyed titillation from the story’s description of the sexual freedoms embraced by the “lost” generation. Really tame stuff by today’s standards.

There is a valuable lesson in my experience with The Sun Also Rises. PLOT IS NOT UNIVERSAL. Each plot has a target audience. My dear Mr. Hemingway would not find me to be a suitable reader of his first major novel, because his plot does not interest me. I simply don’t feel the required tension to make the story compelling.

On the other hand, I loved his book Old Man and the Sea. This plot intrigued me—a classic man versus nature battle with brilliantly written internal dialog and scene narration. Tension was palpable for me. In fact, I read it more than once.

Therein lies my impression of the importance of plot to writing the “page turner.” Writers like me must know our intended readers for our stories and carefully select plots to match. Conflict that matters to a reader will keep that person turning pages as fast as possible. It’s kind of like watching a sport. If the observer likes the sport, it is exciting. But, if the sport is golf, oh my God, how boring, at least for me.

I try to understand my readers’ needs when I take a basic plot and flesh out my story. For example, I have a war story, Palace Dawgs, written with men in mind, especially former soldiers. Will women like it? Some will. Some won’t. But, from the very beginning, the story caters to those story elements that will enhance tension through war-related conflict. This plot will be compelling for the right set of readers.

On the other hand, Maker of Angels is a western romance story about forbidden love between a white cowboy and a renegade Indian woman. It follows the growth of the main character from a naïve young college graduate to a highly skilled gunfighter who ends up in a gunfight against impossible odds to save the Indian woman he loves. Women who enjoy complex stories and highly developed character conflict with a romance theme are my target audience.

Botton line? Plot meant for a clearly defined group will lead to a page-turner experience for those readers. Once the audience profile is understood and the ideal plot developed, then magic will happen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ghost of Lost Eagle...cover decisions.

At long last, my western/romance/paranormal GHOST OF LOST EAGLE is done! Edited five times, signed off by my beta readers and scheduled for release in May, this is book ONE in the Sweetwater Canyon Series.

I'm thrilled. This book was fun to write and challenged every writing rule I follow. Now, it's time to hand it over to readers and pray for the best. Am I confident? Hell no. I'm scared to death. I went out on a limb, blending western historical fiction with romance, by pairing an unlikely couple in a love-hate relationship. Then, I dragged them through attempted murder, a deadly accident and the emotional drain of a terminal illness.

Where's the paranormal? All this happens under the strange influence of the ghost who haunts nearby Lost Eagle Canyon. The Indian apparition and his minions, a lone wolf and a Cayuse Indian pony, change the lives of the main characters forever. Likewise, Mason Tucker, the butcher turned cowboy, discovers his destiny is somehow linked to the ghost through a shared spirit guide that he did not know he had.

All I need now is to settle on the cover art for my story. It's proving difficult. How do I summarize a complex story in a single cover picture? Pick one scene? Nope. A single scene leaves so much out . . . it's just not enough. How about a collage? Never was a fan of a bunch of mixed up pictures. They confuse me. Which theme do I promote? Western? Romance? Paranormal? How about all in a single picture?

Why is this cover so important? To me, a cover is like the first wink between strangers that will, hopefully, lead to a relationship. It needs to be special, to hint at possibilities. If it works, the immediate followup is the title, in essence, the title is a pick-up line. Sounds a lot like dating, huh? Title MUST be great. It is the author's first chance to impress a potential reader-mate with the writer's voice. Imagination expressed through the title suggests a theme and stimulates an image at the same time.

My final task on Ghost of Lost Eagle is to find that special cover art before my story takes the gut-punch jump into readerville. I worked with two graphic artists today without finding the magic. One said her idea was "good enough." Wrong! Compromise on the cover is not an option. It MUST meet my demand to "showcase" the story in a snapshot. Problem is, the release date is closing in like the due date on a pregnancy. It's going to happen.

Therein lies the theme of this blog. Authors wear many hats. Ultimately, it will be the personal drive of an author, me in this case, that produces the final cover. A writer's last, and possibly most critical, artistic decision is cover art. Beware, graphic artists, I am on a mission.

What ideas do you have for finding a good graphic artist? Any recommendation for one? And, what about selecting a scene? Collage? Critical scene? Setting scene?