Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year in Review

2015 was good.

It started badly because I was sick for about a month. That made me late in my self-imposed deadlines, but they were only self-imposed.

I published Dark Deeds in February and Scattered Seeds in September.

Book 3 for A Changed World is outlined and I plan a fall release.

The first book in the new series, Transmutation, is in the first rewrite and will go to the 2nd reader in about a week. I plan to submit this story to Kindle Scout in the spring. You will be hearing more about this along the way.

As an experiment, I pulled Lethal Season and Scattered Seeds out of wide distribution and put them in the KDP Select program. Every month since has seen an increase in pages read. That translates into increased income for me, but more importantly, it is more people reading my books. I've sold 60 books and have almost 6,000 Pages-read for the year, not counting December (which looks very good so far!).

In comparison, I have some books in wide distribution in Smashwords and Draft2Digital. I have sold 1 book through Smashwords for the whole year. I loaded books into D2D in September and have had only 1 sale there so far.

My sales and reads might not seem remarkable, but they are an improvement over last year. I am getting a smidge more revenue and that's exciting. Not ready to quit the day job, yet, but it is a step on the way. As a new author it is so difficult to get found. KDP Select seems to be helping with that.

The garden gave me an excellent harvest. My new raised beds seem to be working well. There were a few fumbles and failures, but that is to be expected. The weather has been so warm in my part of the country that I am still harvesting goodies. I decided to try some fall veggies this year and they are thriving despite the excess rain and lack of sun.

All in all a good year for me. Looking forward to the challenges and victories of 2016.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Writing Emotional Moments

I was watching Childhood's End last night and a highly emotional moment was brushed over too quickly. The character, Ricky, chooses to make a tremendous sacrifice that will impact his life terribly. There was a spurt of action and then it was over and on to another POV.

That felt all kinds of wrong to me.

First of all, no one acknowledges the sacrifice. Ricky is dying. He is young and newly married to Ellie. He is offered medicine that will cure him. That in itself was handled very blithely. He didn't seem to care much either way when the alien gives him some sort of magical cure. As they talk he puts the medicine on the work bench.

Ellie and the religious woman arrive on the scene. Neither knows about the medicine. There is a confrontation and the alien is shot, crumples and appears to die. Ricky runs over and gets the medicine to cure him. He's been told there was only enough for the one dose. So Ricky chooses to use this medicine, the only cure for his illness, to save the alien's life. But no one knows what it is, so neither woman makes any comment or move to stop him.

The alien is saved and bang we go off to another plot line.

I thought Ricky's sacrifice fell flat because no one was there to witness it or mourn for his loss. If Ellie had seen it, we could have felt the loss so much more through her eyes. She would have argued for him to keep it for himself. And we could have seen his reasons for why he thought the alien's life was more important than living out his life with his wife.

The alien doesn't acknowledge the gift. I don't know how this was originally written, but if I was writing it, I'd put it up to the innate selflessness of humanity. The alien should have reacted in some way. Even if he came back and said it didn't matter. The lack of reaction was disappointing.

Ricky and the alien seem to have become friends. The alien tries to soften some of Ricky's difficulties. He should have been surprised and grateful to Ricky for saving his life. This could have been more pivotal in their relationship.

Even to keep the sacrifice private, just between Ricky and the audience, would have worked if there had been a bit of internal dialog. Maybe a glance at the medicine and a glance to his wife. Something to indicate his understanding of what he is giving up. The scene was too fast and too short for something so important. He seemed to not care about the cure and gave it away too easily.

Emotional moments need to have enough time to sink in. A witness, or internal dialog, needs to settle them into the reader/viewer's mind. If they go by too fast, they have no lasting meaning.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scifi - Write What You Know?

When I first thought about writing science fiction I worried about the technical bits because that is not my forte. I don't read hard scifi because it doesn't interest me. In space opera, I often skim the sections where they describe the engines and weapons. I'm more interested in the characters and the story. If a battle happens, fine, but it isn't top priority for me.

I think that's why I started reading more fantasy than scifi. And shying away from epic fantasy with its armies of dark elves/orcs/whatever marching on the hapless heroes. I don't like battles and gore and choreographed fighting to the death. It has its place. I've written fight scenes in some of my books. But it isn't what I am looking for as a reader.

It took me a little while to realize that what I wanted to read was what I should write. Sounds silly now. But when I started writing I was afraid that I needed to slot my work into a specific category. Science fiction required science, right?

I thought about calling it fantasy, but since there are spaceships and aliens most people will dub it scifi. I worried that hard science fans, or space opera fans would call me out at the lack of what those genres demand.

Then I learned about all the subgenres. And a new (to me) category called space fantasy. A glance at that category on Goodreads gives me 533 results including a bunch of Star Wars novels, some Pern novels and some very well known authors. It has the books I would like to read.

Fretting about the science in my story was pointless because it doesn't affect the plot. I came up with a few simple answers to things. That released me to write the story about the characters and the events that change their lives, which is the story I wanted to tell. Somehow it gave me permission to write in my own voice about people I made up in a story that interested me. What a relief.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Giveaway Conundrum

The Goodreads Giveaway for Scattered Seeds isn't working out as well as I'd hoped. It's been 3 weeks since I mailed the books. Still a little early for any reviews, but I'm not expecting many. I went to check my Amazon page and discovered 6 used books for sale.

Since I've only sold 1 print book, and that's in the UK, they can only be the books I sent out. So of the 10 people that "won" my book, 6 have sold them to used book stores.

If the remaining 4 people read the books and review them, I will be delighted. But I'm not holding my breath.

I debated having a giveaway. On one hand, it's a 2nd book in a series, so that limits the audience. On the other hand, it could interest people in buying book 1 (the ebook is only .99) But this isn't the first time I've found gifted books for sale. It's disappointing, but there's nothing you can do about it.

In the future, I don't think I'll be doing a giveaway through Goodreads. Seems like there are too many people who are signing up for the wrong reasons.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Not a Review

I just finished reading The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell and I need to chew on it for awhile. It is a well loved book by most readers and I am curious about what appeals to them.

This is a well researched book with too many battles for my taste. I guess that is one of the things that will appeal to other people. The world at that time, post-Roman Britain, is brutal and Cornwall describes it in painful detail.

World building is important for a fantasy book. I will say that his is extremely well done. The people are coarse, ignorant and superstitious. The politics are conniving and cruel. All in all, a world too dark for me to enjoy reading about.

This felt like more of a historical treatise than a novel. In that, I think my father would have enjoyed this book.

The things that poked at me, aside from the casual brutality of the time, were the thin characters. Everyone had one overriding characteristic that beats a monotonous drum. Perhaps because there are so many characters in the story, none of them can really expand or grow. None of them last long, because of the constant warring. Also the simplistic depiction of their Druids, hopping on one foot, throwing pebbles and spitting to curse or bless something. I felt that the author thought them foolish and held a certain contempt for all the religions presented.

I have to admit that I skimmed through the pages and pages of warriors hacking each other to pieces, the rapes and looting. It made me wonder how there are any of us left alive. And it made me realize that we have been fighting over land since the beginning of time. Both the Franks and the Saxons, in the novel, are killing off rivals for farmland and bringing in their own people in to settle those stolen parcels of land.

I prefer a character driven story. The narrator, Derfel, is barely visible in some scenes as he describes the action. He is the right-time, right-place kind of character that gets to see and hear everything of importance. But I hardly know him, other than he's good with a spear and will fight to death for his companions.

This is supposed to be a more historically correct account which tosses in some names I know in an completely different order. That sent my brain scrambling to try to sort out who was who and how they had been portrayed in other stories. I think that confused me enough to make me a little defensive while I read. Plus, the most disappointing part of all--no magic.

I won't be reading the rest of the series. As a historical writer, he's very skilled, but this story just doesn't appeal to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Books Away!

All the books for the Goodreads Giveaway are in the mail! 10 lucky winners will be receiving a print copy of Scattered Seeds.

I set up the giveaway automatically because it's on my marketing list. But then I had second thoughts. Each time I do a giveaway, I seem to be getting less reviews. I upped the number of books to try for more favorable averages, but it doesn't seem to be helping.

This giveaway had the least amount of people sign up for it - 514. That might be because it is a sequel. But I have noticed a down trend in people requesting my books. On the bright side, 219 people put it into their To-Be-Read pile. So that's a good thing, but that number is lower than the others also.

I guess it's time to investigate a few more avenues for getting the word out about my books.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Story Changed Itself

My work in progress is coming along nicely, but it isn't the story I thought I was writing.

This story has been around for a long time. Rewriting it was not going to fix it, so I took one plot line and did a very simple outline for it. As I wrote, the plot shifted. It's still heading in the direction I wanted it to, but I'm going to arrive from a different starting point.

All of the previous writing I did has been invaluable. I know the galaxy and the politics of the different planets. I have backstories on all of the characters. I know them intimately. But this time around they are surprising me. I'm letting them run.

Instead of info dumping, I am building the information into the story. It's a lot of fun. And it is so much more organic to the growth of the world. It's a big world and there is a lot to know about it. But tossing all that information at the reader is overwhelming and at this point, useless.

The world grows as the characters move through it. There are 20 planets in my world. But not all of them are involved in the beginning of the story. It's like writing a novel based in Bangor, Maine, but spending time talking about the other 49 states. The reader doesn't need to know any of that right away, or maybe at all.

In one of the previous versions, one of my beta readers said she couldn't keep track of the places and people. I know I had way too many characters, but I couldn't understand why the places were confusing. Partly I think it's because I made it too complicated. Every stopover had an incident, politics and new species. Those things might have enriched the world, but they didn't move the plot forward. I was heaping whipped cream and fudge sauce on top of a tiny sliver of ice cream. The window dressing took over.

As I write out the bare bones for this story I am enjoying the new freedom my characters have. They are acting like people now that I have removed the strictures of the previous plot requirements. And some new skills I've picked up in the last few novels are helping make it into a much more interesting story.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fingers Crossed - It Might be Working

I may have found my path. At least for this moment. The sales and reads of my books are increasing. I almost don't want to say anything because I have become ridiculously superstitious about this, and don't want to jinx anything.

There is no path to success anymore. In the beginning of e-publishing it was a breeze. Write it, publish it and a million people bought it. I wasn't in on that. Every day I see a new "How To" article that explains how a certain author achieved success. Most of them won't work for me. Sometimes it's the wrong genre, or sometimes it suggests methods that would be a chore and I know I couldn't keep it up.

My method has always been to work hard and keep improving. I think that goes without saying for most writers. Social media is very hard for me. I'm such an introvert. And my hobbies aren't very flashy. Nobody gets overly excited about gardening. Maybe if I got involved with martial arts or took up parasailing... Even when I was involved in the theatre, all my work was backstage.

As I said in a previous post, Hugh Howey's blog convinced me to give KDP Select a go. I put the 2 books of A Changed World series in there. And they are slowly selling. For an unknown author, I think this is a good way to get a following. Once I start selling at a consistent rate, I can consider whether to go wide. Right now I am a drop in the bucket of publishing. I am competing against all the other books out there and I need some sort of edge. Being in Select gives me a small edge and I'll take it.

So for right now, at this point in time, this seems to be working for me. If you want my books in a different format, let me know in the comment section.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Booksick - like Homesick

I just finished the 2nd book of an unfinished trilogy and I am booksick for the next one!

There are authors whose worlds I slide into like greeting an old friend. So happy to be back there and mingle with the familiar characters. I know the countryside and who to be wary of. There are things that I can expect and surprises that will enrich this special world.

I gallop through the book eager to take it all in. And yet I measure the pages left wishing them to not dwindle. Even a distraction of a secondary character is okay as I follow that streamlet eager to see where it will blend into the river of the story.

I stay up too late and read through my lunch time. I cram every spare minute into devouring the book. But I don't want to get to the end.

When I turn the final page and fall out of the dream, I pine for the next. The characters follow me around for days suggesting where the plot might go. And I lie in bed at night and worry about them.

Thanks goodness I have so many new authors to turn to for consolation. But I can't leave the previous world just yet. I'm not done thinking about them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bits and Bobs

Here are a bunch of random items that I keep forgetting about.

Scattered Seeds is now available in print.
Amazon          Barnes and Noble

Lethal Seasons has finally been removed from Flipkart! Yay! So that means it is now exclusively at Amazon and can be read for free through Kindle Unlimited. If you don't have an Amazon Prime subscription, it is only .99 right now.

So my experiment of having the science fiction books in KDP Select can now get off the ground. Fingers crossed that it brings in some new readers.

White Lies and Dark Deeds have been shifted over to Draft to Digital for Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. So far I haven't had any new sales through the new channels, but it's only been a week. I may lower the price on White Lies next month to see if that helps.

The garden is winding down for winter. We haven't had a frost yet, so everything is still thriving. Well, except for the tomatoes. The full week of rain we had pushed them all over the edge. They turned black and blighty almost overnight.

I bought some winter veggie starts and they are doing well. My garden doesn't get much sun in the winter, so I can't do a lot. The bok choy plants have already contributed to a stirfry. I am hoping the broccoli and Brussels sprouts will manage to produce something before the really cold weather sets in. I also got some lacinato kale, one of my favorites. Looking forward to some of that soon, too.

The work in progress - Façade - is coming along well. I decided to not try to rewrite the same failed story. So I picked a plotline and changed one character. I made her smarter and stronger and that immediately dictated a whole new story. She became smart and strong in the original doorstop, but it took too long. And I realized that I had rushed to get to the point where she achieved that, which caused some weirdness and some boring bits. So I dropped that all out and started where it should be. It's still just bare bones, but I have a good feel for it now.

The weather has been gorgeous this week. I have been wanting to get a lot of outside work done but something always comes up. Today I promised myself some time in the garden! So off I go.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Cheese Keeps Moving

Think of a maze where the paths shift around, new ones appear and old ones become dead ends. That's not the plot for a new horror story, it's the playing field of self publishing.

Tried and true only seems to last for a few months, symptoms of an emerging industry. When you think of how young self publishing is, you have to expect bumps in the road. A new ereader could hit the markets tomorrow requiring a brand new distributor. Or a new distributor could wrangle a bigger hold on the market making authors migrate as quickly as possible because the first ones over always have an advantage.

Free isn't as big a boost as it used to be. Advice on sweet spot pricing ranges are all over the map. Every day I read another article or blog post with advice that is immediately poo-pooed in the comments as being old hat. Which comes down to the truth of the matter - nobody really knows.

What worked last year doesn't always work this year because everything is evolving. From formatting to distribution to discovery, things change so rapidly it's hard to form a roadmap.

Last year I tried just about everything and failed at most of it. I was reading the "Get Out There!" articles and going against my nature to do it. This year I dropped the ball in January when I got the flu-from-hell. By the time I felt up to tackling the dreaded marketing again, I knew I needed to reassess things. I did a very basic Return on Investment analysis. Were my sales up from all this flailing about in social media? Nope.

So I dropped the things that were painful or that I didn't understand well enough. I had spread myself thin joining up to every new site and forcing myself to post something somewhere. I think I have an adequate internet presence that anyone could find me easily. I'm not going to tie myself in knots to be on any site that doesn't come easily.

And I will keeping on doing what I think is the simplest and best advice - keep writing and publishing good books.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Smashwords Nightmare

My books are for sale where?

Let me preface this. Back in 2012 when I self published my first book, I was happy to load White Lies into Smashwords and send it off to all the retailers they distribute to. Finding my ebook on sale at Barnes and Noble or iTunes was exciting. When Smashwords expanded, I thought that was fantastic. My books were available all over the world. And my reports showed me a trickle of sales in foreign countries. I was delighted.

Then the sales abruptly stopped. In the past 8 months, I've sold only 1 book through all those distributors. I thought it was odd that as I published new books my sales went down, but I haven't been doing a lot of advertising.

Last month I decided to experiment with putting 2 books into KDP exclusively. I unpublished them from Smashwords on August 30, and waited. And waited... Luckily, Scattered Seeds was a pre-sale and didn't go out to all the distributors. Lethal Seasons was another story.

First unhappy surprise - Kobo redistributes my books. I discovered this through a forum somewhere. So I went out to look and sure enough, there are my books on a French website. I have no idea what the market is for post apocalyptic survivor stories in France, much less for those in English in a non-English speaking country. As the author and publisher of that book I was annoyed that I didn't know about this redistribution. Although I admit it could be in the fine print somewhere that I carelessly skimmed over.

Second unhappy surprise - Smashwords can't control their partners. I am still waiting for Flipkart to remove Lethal Seasons from their website, 31 days after making the request. I have emailed them several times, only to be told that all they can do is ask. Even now that they have severed their partnership, Smashwords seems unable to retrieve its catalog from Flipkart.

While staring at the display page for Lethal Seasons on Flipkart, I discovered yet another unhappy surprise: my book is offered for sale through WS Retail. After a little research I found out that WS Retail is owned by Flipkart in some sort of loophole to dodge Indian laws. How that affects me and my little ebook, I've still to sort out.

So some of the retailors are acting as distributors and passing on my books to yet another retailer. I suppose that explains the odd royalty variables. But now I am suspicious of my complete lack of sales through all those new extended channels. It is totally possible that I am just having a bad run. And as I said, I haven't been doing any advertising. But I still have that niggling doubt that sales are falling through the cracks somewhere.

And my marketing plans for the latest book are all on hold. It's hard to promote book 2 when book 1 is being held hostage.

Friday, September 25, 2015

...And Repeat

Time to start all over again.

I am still wrapping up some Scattered Seeds book launch odds and ends, but I've started on the next book. In fact, the other day I had to tell myself that marketing wasn't cheating on my writing, because it is important, too. But I am very possessive of my writing time.

I've got the mechanical bits of publishing down pretty well now. If I could just get a handle on the marketing side, I'd be delighted. So many things to learn. Yet it seems to all comes down to word of mouth and reviews. So go review the book you just finished reading! Authors need you!

I've got the bones down for the first few chapters of Façade. Since this is a story I've been writing for about 15 years, I was able to outline the first book easily. I think I have managed to strip out the bloat and focus the story. There will be hints of the backstory that will come out in later novels. It finally occurred to me that some of that stuff needed its own novel.

As often happens, the story took off in an unexpected direction. I followed it and realized where it needed to go. I'm pleased with how things are coming along. Since some of the Scattered Seeds editing took longer than I expected, I'm running a little behind on my word count schedule. I have learned to build in some leeway for those little interruptions called life (illness, emergencies, laziness and such) so I should still be about on schedule.

Façade is going to be submitted to the Kindle Scout program. (Provided it is still running next spring.) I think this series has tremendous potential. I hope they agree with me. I will post more information about it when I get closer to completion. The novel must be finished, polished and have a cover for the submission.

So - back to writing!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Scattered Seeds Ebook

I am leaving the ebook at $2.99 a little longer because of some serious typos.

I am about 3/4 of the way through the press proof and I have a lot of those sticky flags. Every flag shows an error. I am having the computer read the book for me. Hearing it is a sure fire way to discover typos. Things like repeated words or missing ones stand out easily when heard. I know that it is really easy to slide over them while reading because our minds show us what we expect.

So I am going to ask people to wait to buy the book for a few more days while I clean it up. Anyone who has already purchased it should get a notification from Amazon that an update is available.

My apologies! I rushed to publish a little too soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Scattered Seeds Excerpt

Here's chapter 1 - a little teaser for anyone waiting for book 2.

Scattered Seeds is available for pre-order on Amazon for $2.99 until the release date of September 18. After the release it will be $4.99

Lethal Seasons, book 1 in A Changed World series is also available on Amazon.

Scattered Seeds

When the disease had run its course in the fall of Zero Year we acted like a war had ended. The dead were buried in mass graves. World leaders declared a day of mourning. We met in public parks, singing hymns and holding hands. Those of us left alive were grieving and battered. We had survived a cataclysm of unknown proportions. And then, fools that we were, we tried to return to normal.

History of a Changed World - Angus T. Moss

Wisp felt a tide of worry rush over the people in the vegetable field. The concern he felt had an edge of fear to it. He detoured to the field out of curiosity and because he could sense Nick’s presence. It was just after dawn on a drizzly, overcast morning when most of the people at High Meadow were still asleep. He’d been on his way to the cafeteria to catch a quick breakfast before all those quiet minds woke making it too uncomfortable to stay in the building. Barely a week of living here, and he knew he’d gotten too complacent around these amicable people.

He cut through the tidy rows of vegetables, in what had once been a ball field, toward a group of people hunched in the chilly rain. Since it was such a gentle sprinkle, they hadn’t set up the storm sheeting over the crops. Nick, Lottie, Harlan and old man Larson stood around the blackened tangle of vines that had once been a tomato plant. Harlan shook his head. Despite being nearly blind, Harlan was proving to be surprisingly capable. Lottie, head of the Growing Committee, looked like she was ready to cry. Her sense of loss was so strong, Wisp wondered if this could be about more than losing a plant.

“What kind of blight?” Nick asked the group in general. He acknowledged Wisp with a glance, his green eyes clouded with concern.

“Must be late blight, don’t ya see,” Larson said in a countrified drawl. “Early blight comes first. Be already dead iff’n it were early blight.”

Wisp looked around for the grandson that always tagged along after the old man, but he might be with the chickens, as that was the main chore for both of them.

“But they were fine yesterday,” Lottie said. A solid woman, she had tanned skin and frizzing gray hair cut short. There were notes of frustration about her that were tangled with helplessness and tainted with fear.

“Naw. They had the start of it. A couple yeller leaves. Spreads on the wind, ya know.”

“No,” Harlan shook his head. “No, it’s in the dirt.” He stamped his foot in emphasis.

“But the wind blows it up,” Larson countered, windmilling his arm in explanation. Harlan gave a shrug of tentative agreement. The two old men seemed sure of the information they were imparting.

Wisp looked down the twenty foot row of staked tomatoes. The first two plants in the row were dead. Their vines black, spotty fruit, the color of muddy water, hung like half-deflated sacks. The next plant had more than a few yellow leaves spattered with black spots.

“What causes it?” Nick asked. He pushed a few stray locks of damp hair off his forehead.

Wisp sensed a layer of resignation holding back a low lying anger in him. This morning Nick looked unkempt. He needed a shave, and his short brown hair looked like it hadn’t seen a comb in a few days. That was unlike him. There must be more to his sour mood than the dead vegetables.

Larson raised bony shoulders in a plea of ignorance. “Always had blight here abouts. My meemaw used to spray hers with milk.”

Harlan bobbed his head in vigorous agreement. “Right. Mine did, too.”

“But we didn’t have any last year,” Lottie said in a mournful tone.

“First year luck,” Harlan said.

Larson snorted a laugh. “Eh yup, that’s it.”

“What does that mean?” Nick groused. His irritation hit a tipping point, cascading into anger.

Larson took a step back, watching Nick with a careful eye. Lottie turned an impatient scowl on him.

“First year of a garden is always the best,” Harlan explained. “Bugs and diseases haven’t found it yet.”

“But this isn’t our first year,” Lottie countered. She folded her arms and took a solid stance as if to physically bar the disease.

Larson raised his hands palm up in a sympathetic gesture. “So you a got a couple free years.”

Lottie nudged the first plant with the toe of her shoe. Three rotten tomatoes fell, bursting open to spread dark slime over the ground. “What do we do about it?”

“Rip ‘em out,” Larson said. “Burn em.”

Nick turned to Lottie. “Can you handle that?”

Lottie squared her shoulders and set her jaw. “Of course.” Her frustration bumped up into indignation. “We’ll take them out down to...” She walked along the row to a plant that remained uniformly green. “...about here. Can we plant something else?”

“Nothin’ in the nightshade family. They’re all susceptible.”

Lottie recited all the nightshades she knew, “Tomatoes, potatoes...”

“Peppers, eggplant,” Larson peered up at her with a sly look. “Tobacco, um, husk cherry.”

“We’re not growing any tobacco,” she said with a finality that sounded like the response to a very old argument. “Maybe I can put a couple of pole bean plants in here.”

Feeling a resolution of the agitation, Wisp headed towards the school building, knowing Nick would catch up. He had the feeling that Nick wanted a few last words of reassurance from Lottie. Their hopes for self-sufficiency rested on her success with the crops.

Wisp looked across the converted school’s campus. He admired the plan of how the sports fields had been reused for food crops. Despite Lottie’s alarm, the rest of the plots seemed untouched by the blight. Shiny green foliage filled bed after bed with lettuces, mustard greens, the red-veined leaves of beets, frilly spikes of carrot greens. Cucumbers and beans clambered up trellises. A damp breeze rattled through shaking drops from leaves and kicking up the scent of wet earth. Despite the arrival of the disease, the fields had a healthy smell.

Nick came up beside him, his pant legs soggy to the knee. They walked side by side past the other vegetable beds. “Neither Larson nor Harlan seemed surprised or worried,” Wisp offered.

“It might be normal, but it’s another problem to deal with. Something we didn’t know about yesterday. And the solution is milk, another thing we can’t get our hands on.”

“You could ask Creamery,” Wisp said. He almost sent a tendril of thought toward the dairy, but it was too far to feel anything useful.

“That’s a long ride for supplies we won’t be consuming,” Nick grumbled. “If they have enough to share. Or want to share.”

Wisp didn’t call Nick on his half-truth. Creamery had been more than willing to barter their cheese when Nick was there. “How badly do you want or need the tomatoes?”

Nick stopped, looking back toward where Lottie was shooing her consultants on their way. “I don’t know. I hope Tillie’s on top of this, because I have no idea how important they are to the food supply. What if we do lose them all?”

“I think the Growers Committee can deal with it,” Wisp said. “If the disease is indigenous to the area, they need to develop methods to counter it.”

“I guess. Do you think Kyle could come up with something?”

Wisp bit back his initial denial realizing he couldn’t say if his brother would be interested in the project or not. Kyle and Ruth were spending most of their time looking at the impact the virus and vaccines had had on human DNA. That might seem like more important work, but protecting the food supply could trump it. “It’s possible he might know how to fabricate a fungicide.”

“I’ll ask him.” Nick’s mood lightened, but he continued to stand in the light rain, staring over the vegetable field. His gaze moved to the road up to Barberry Cove.

In the wistfulness of Nick’s emotions, Wisp could almost feel the memory forming of the day that the superstorm hit, and they found all the children out on the road. “You are unsettled.”

“I want to get out of here,” Nick grumbled. “We promised the Barberry Cove kids that we’d look for their parents. It’s been a week and no new information. We got a name for the man we found with the gut wound--Glen. He’s still in a coma. We may never get any information out of him. If he even saw anything. His kids are toddlers, can’t give us anything more.”

“It’s one parent found,” Wisp offered. He felt the need to move, also. He’d made a promise to the children. And maybe it was time for him to be back on his own.

“Right,” Nick muttered. “The unconscious father of two kids barely old enough to feed themselves. That’s not making me feel any better.”

“I have no commitments,” Wisp said. “I can leave today.” Saying that gave him an odd touch of disappointment.

“I’ll tell Angus we need to go,” Nick said. A calmness settled over Nick once he made the decision. He started toward the building again.

A spike of fear shrilled across Wisp’s senses. “Trouble.”


The glass doors to the school clanged open as Lily burst through them. From the slight height of the terrace, she scanned the fields before bolting down the three steps towards them. Nick jogged over to meet her, Wisp on his heels.

“Nick, Nick, Nick!” Lily hollered as she ran. “Angus is hurt!”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Change of Seasons

This is the first year I can say I felt the season changed. It was about a week ago. The humidity dropped overnight. We had clear blue skies and cooler temperatures the following day. I felt like someone had flipped a switch somewhere and we were now coasting down toward winter.

Trees are dropping leaves already. Nights are in the fifties now.

This summer was unusually hot in a very consistent manner. Every day was pushing 90. The vegetable garden needed watering almost every day. We didn't have a lot of rain.

I have heard that the El Nino will bring us either a mild winter or a brutal one. I guess it depends on how the weather systems travel once they hit the mountains.

August ennui has me ignoring the garden just when the weeds are creeping in. Everything needs attention, but I am in the middle of line edits on Scattered Seeds and that is taking all my time. In fact I should be working on it right now.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Computer Lunacy

I only have myself to blame. I didn't think before I hit the Upgrade button. And worst of all, I didn't do a backup first.


Microsoft sent me a nice little email saying I could upgrade to Windows 10. So I did. Without considering that it was going to change a bunch of things and maybe lose some stuff. It looked a little different, but I expected that. I didn't expect to lose my internet connection.

I work online. If I can't access the internet, I can't do my work. So I panicked.

After trying to connect umpteen times and failing I chose to downgrade back to Window 8.1. I assumed that would make things just like they were before.

Nope. Still no wifi.

I am not tech savvy. I know enough to get in trouble. And I did. I found something that offered to refresh the computer without affecting the files. Cool. I clicked on it.

Bad news. Still no wifi and on top of that I lost all sorts of Word.

It kept telling me that I needed to plug in my Ethernet cable. This laptop never had one. In an attempt to appease the wifi gods, I dug though an assortment of wires and cables to get the right one. Then I took the laptop over to the router and plugged it in. Bingo. Wifi came back.

Great gusty sigh of relief.

Then I spent the morning reloading a ton of things that I use every day because I couldn't open any files. Ugh.

Needless to say - lesson learned.

Friday, August 14, 2015

New Banner!

Alex has made me a wonderful new banner to use for social media. This is a portion of the back cover for the print edition. Unfortunately, anyone who purchases an ebook will not get to see this cool artwork.

I also used a potion of the artwork for the book trail. Click here to see my first trailer. I had a lot of fun making it, and I think it tells a pretty good story.

Scattered Seeds is now in line edits. Woo Hoo! Now for the nuts and bolts work. It isn't fun and takes a whole lot longer than you ever expect.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Changed World Update

First of all there is an incredible review of Lethal Seasons over on Nonlocal Science Fiction. I've had good feedback, for the most part, on this book, but this is the first professional review. And it blew me away. They will also be doing a pre-release review of Scattered Seeds as soon as I can get them a copy. So please visit the website and give them some love for me.

Secondly, the book trailer for Scattered Seeds is almost done. This time around I am doing it myself. I discovered Windows Live Movie Maker was already on my laptop. And Alex had delivered the final cover. So it looked like I had everything I needed to get going. I had a lot of fun playing around with it. I think I may be doing more of them in the future.

Next point of interest, I got Scattered Seeds back from my third reader. She only had a few, but important, notes. I expect to start tweaking today with hopes of getting it to line editing by early next week. Woohoo! Still on target for my pub date.

Finally, I have brainstormed and tweaked the titles for my space opera, which I might start calling a space fantasy. I am going with Façade as the title of book 1 and Transmutation as the overall series.

With all the various incarnations in my head, I actually wrote an outline for this book. Since I have rewritten this story 3 times, I know it intimately. And chopped it all up to drop out excess herrings and extraneous plot lines. I think this will be a cleaner, clearer, more intense story about a new species hiding in plain sight.

Now I just need to write it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scattered Seeds Presales Discount

The Scattered Seeds ebook is now available for presales at a discounted price of $1.89 at iTunes and Barnes and Noble . I will hopefully have a link for Kobo by the weekend.

Right now Amazon is only allowing presales 4 weeks out for self-pubbed books. I will have that set up in late August.

The print book will be coming out at the same time as the ebook.

Scattered Seeds is off to the 3rd reader. I am not anticipating any big changes at this point. There will be some tweaking and tightening, I'm sure. Maybe a new scene or two that didn't manage to get out of my head and onto the paper. A bridge here, some smoothing there and it will be ready for line edits.

While it is off with the reader, I am free to turn my attention to the next project. And I need to brainstorm a better working title because it doesn't quite work...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Cover Reveal for Scattered Seeds


Please stop by Nonlocal Science Fiction to see what they have to say about this series! And to see the wonderful cover for Scattered Seeds.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cover Reveal Soon!

Monday, July 27th, the cover for Scattered Seeds will be revealed on Nonlocal Science Fiction .

I am very excited about this wonderful cover that Alex Storer has done. As usual, his amazing artwork really captures the feel behind the story.

At the same time, Scattered Seeds will also be going up on Smashwords for ebook pre-sales at a discounted price of $1.89. I am still aiming for a release date of September 18. On the 19th the price will go up to $3.99.

I will have all those links available on Monday.

Amazon will only allow a 4 week lead on pre-sales. I will set that up the end of August for ebook sales.

Please stop by on Monday to check it out and reserve your copy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Taste of Lethal Seasons

Today I am posting an excerpt from Lethal Seasons, book one of A Changed World series.

Gale force winds rammed into Nick forcing him back into the train station. Rain slashed at him raking his skin like cold claws. Drenched in a second, half blind against the wind, he staggered into the building. The door slammed behind him, rattling under the assault of dangerous weather.
“Told ya.” Frank shook his head in exaggerated dismay. “Shoulda listened.” He stood far enough from the door to remain dry. The only note of untidiness about him was a stray curl of hair standing up from the wind Nick had let in. His blue National Train Authority uniform was spotless.
“Should have known you to be right,” Nick agreed. He dropped his pack and bedroll to wipe his face. “Looks like I’m stuck here for the night.”
Frank gave him a condescending nod. “The forecast was for category three winds ‘til past midnight. What’s got you in such a hurry to get back?”
Nick shrugged his uneasiness away. This trip had been different for a couple of reasons, but nothing he wanted to share with Frank. “Just want to sleep in my own bed,” he said honestly.
“Can’t blame you for that. Good trip?”
“Making progress.”
“Good to hear.” Frank’s response was professionally cheerful. He didn’t ask intrusive questions and was always satisfied with vague answers. “Got to check on the 8:27. I think it’s coming late.” He bobbed his head in a slight bow, turned on his heel and strode off to the control booth.
Nick grabbed his gear and headed for the shelter cubbies. High Meadow was one of the older style stations, built just as the world was coming to grips with climate change. It was barely far enough underground to remain in operation. Despite the thick walls and storm proofing, Nick could hear the howl of the wind and the pounding of the rain. But no thunder. He breathed a sigh of relief. Probably no tornados tonight. He considered using one of the ether booths to send a message to Angus, but was too tired to retrace his steps. Angus probably wouldn’t see the message until tomorrow anyway, and Nick would be there by then.
An older woman, thin as a rail, in an NTA uniform came up toward him on the stairs to the lower level. The tailored blue jacket and slacks hung on her bones, a size too big. Another symptom of the changed world. The downsizing of the population left a lot of resources behind, but not enough people to run the factories that would make new ones. So the people left had to make do with what was at hand. Nick didn’t recognize her. He knew most of the people that manned High Meadow. She moved with a slight hitch to her walk, climbing the stairs slowly, arthritis maybe.
“Evening,” he said politely.
She cast a measuring glance over him. Her eyes lingered a moment on the bedroll, then took in his two-day old scruff and wet clothes. It took a minute for her to complete her scrutiny. She startled at his green eyes, her gaze going directly to his neck to check for a tattoo.
“Evening.” She climbed past him a bit quicker.
He got that reaction sometimes. People wondering if he was human. Green eyes and dark brown hair wasn’t that odd of a combination. He’d stopped saying that his mother had had green eyes. Maybe if he’d had her red hair, it wouldn’t look out of place. The woman’s fear that he might be a biobot made him wonder if she’d seen any. It made him want to tell her that they could look normal, too. Before Zero Year, all the biobots he’d seen could have passed as human. That’s why they started tattooing them in the first place. But in all his travels over the past ten years, he’d never encountered one. They might have been wiped out by the virus after all.
The shelter level was well lit. A long corridor of shiny white walls and glossy black enamel doors with black and white tiled floors stretched out before him. Each cubby was self-contained, lights, potable water, toilet, sleeping space. Although originally designed to be used in a disaster, Nick had seen several stations that had permanent residents. Knowing the rooms by the stairs were the ones used most often, he went halfway down the long corridor and chose one with a picture of an acorn on the door. Pictures now, not numbers, marked the cubbies, which probably meant the illiteracy level was rising.
The cell-sized room was immaculate and smelled of antiseptic. The NTA people were very thorough. Proud to have jobs in a world that had no industries left. He tossed his bedroll on the shiny metal shelf that passed for a bed, hoping the waterproofing held. It was a relief to be still for a minute. He'd been travelling for six days and the ultra-fast trains took a toll. He peeled off his wet clothing and dried off with the towel he carried in his pack. The clothes probably wouldn’t dry tonight, but he draped them on the row of coat hooks that lined one wall anyway.
He sat on the shelf with a groan. He'd been gone longer than planned. There’d been some unexpected complications. Things that he wasn’t sure he wanted to talk to Angus about. Nick had been gathering information for Angus’s history book for the past three years. It gave him a purpose. A reason to go out into the world and talk to people. He was a man that needed those things—purpose, reason, order. Without them he was too easily lost in regrets and sorrow for all the people he’d lost. Whenever the ghosts and darkness came calling, he got out his pack and bedroll and went searching for new communities. The world had shattered, and Angus was trying to knit it back together with cobwebs and good intentions. It was a cause he could easily support.
Click on the Lethal Seasons tab above for all the ebook and print retailers.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Starting on The Monster

I wrote the first couple pages of the Space Opera!

I call it The Monster because it was my first, badly written, meandering novel with a cast of a thousand. You needed a spreadsheet to remember who was related to who and a map to figure out where people were. But it had a compelling story. Everyone who read it managed to wade through all the unrelated complexities to find out what happened. They encouraged me to keep working on it because they cared about the characters.

What my patient and kind readers didn't say was that I didn't have the skill to handle a story of that magnitude. It was huge in every sense of the word. A real doorstop. And way too complex for a first novel. After three rewrites I finally put it aside. I knew I needed to learn more about story telling first.

Scattered Seeds is my fifth novel and the second in a trilogy. I think I am finally ready to take on The Monster. As I look back through my maps and spreadsheets, I am amazed at the amount of planning already done. I will be able to put that all to good use, once I get things plotted out.

The main problem with The Monster was that I couldn't figure out how to fix it. Not until I critiqued someone else's manuscript. This was a mystery and totally unrelated, but had a similar problem. The writer was telling everyone's story at the same time. That might be an interesting take to experiment with, but it makes for very confusing storytelling. All those layers tend to water down every story making nothing stand out.

In retrospect, I had buried the lead. I was so concerned with how my main characters had gotten to where they were, that the most interesting part of the story was relegated to subplot. As I started thinking about what shape this story should take, I realized I was dreading the build up. And in taking a clear look at what that entailed, I decided it was all unnecessary. Cut to the chase. Yeah, these two guys have a lot of baggage. No, we don't need to know all about that now. In fact, I think that might not surface until book three. And considering the amount of material I have on that, it will take a big book to deal with it all.

I had always envisioned a series for this world. However, I've gotten tired of reading series that take forever to accomplish the goal (I'm looking at you Robert Jordan). I prefer a series like the Dresden Files where something is presented and dealt with in each book with a few elements arcing into others. They aren't truly stand-alones, because each one builds on the previous one. Nor are they cliff hangers for the most part. Another skill to study.

I know that some people won't even start a series until it is fully written. How do you feel about that?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Scattered Seeds Update

Alex Storer is working on the cover for Scattered Seeds. He sent the latest version over the other day and it's gotten me all excited. I can't wait to share it with everyone. Alex has done the covers for all of my novels now, so you are probably aware of how talented he is.

The story went off to the second reader. I had to rough up a couple of smooth spots and put a twist in a boring section. The rewrite from the first reader's notes took me longer than expected. I got a little stuck in writing the new scenes. Then something clicked and I couldn't write fast enough. I love it when that happens.

So far I am still on track for a September release of Scattered Seeds. I am hoping that it won't come back from the second reader with too much red pen. There could be a new gaping plot hole that I built with the new scenes. Or the remains of one that the first reader pointed out that I didn't stitch together well enough. This year I have allotted myself a little more tweaking time between readers. Just in case.

I'm supposed to be brainstorming the outline for my new space opera series, but instead I am working on my gardening books.

I have a couple of the Sow It - Grow It - Serve It books half done. I will be publishing them as soon as they are completed. They cover planting, maintaining, harvesting and cooking a single vegetable with lots of  how-to photos from my garden and kitchen.

Swiss Chard is available now as an ebook at Amazon and in multiple formats at Smashwords.

Here's a lovely picture of a female pattypan squash blossom that is about to bloom. You can see another squash that's formed just below it. That will be for dinner sometime next week.

And that is what is keeping me busy right now. How's your summer going?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Marketing Go-Round

There's so much information out there.

Buy this, sign up for that, learn about this, post your book here, videos, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, websites...ugh.

So I buy a couple of books on marketing which sometimes are retreads of each other. And I dig through advertisers to figure out which ones might work for me. I spend a little of my tiny marketing budget to purchase an ad or two. But other people are saying it takes 4, no 5, no really 10 books before you should worry about advertising.

In the mean time, only a handful of people have bought my books. And even fewer have reviewed them.


And then the new meme is connecting with the reader. Send out newsletters. Chat with your readers on your blog. Research people who have bought books like yours and reach out to them. (Sounds like cyber stalking to me) More research, more time spent digging through different sites looking for that golden needle in a haystack.

So expect to see some changes in the blogs and other places. I am sorting through a lot of new information trying to figure out what is the least painful for me.

Do people really like to be in contact with their favorite authors? Tell me how you feel about that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Plot Holes and Boring Bits

I can always tell when I've written something boring. My mind skims over it when I read it back. Or I avoid that section entirely. It makes me feel stuck. I think part of that is because my brain knows it needs to be fixed.

My current rewrite is finally flowing. I was cooking along nicely when I hit the major plot hole reader #1 complained about. It was a sloppy, easy solution to a complex set up. Therefore it was totally unsatisfying for the reader. And ultimately me, too. So I had to go back and rearrange some things, then write some new chapters. Yikes, not just a scene or two, I needed to write a whole lot of new stuff.

It was a bit of a struggle, but I feel good about it. I think the set up pays off properly now. And the new stuff dovetailed nicely with the old stuff. Whew. That could have been a big mess. I still might need to cut some chapters if reader #2 finds them boring.

The good part about my beta readers is that I can hear their voices as I write. I know the bad habits they call me on, and I try to clean them up before I hand out the manuscript. But I can also ask them to look for any new bad habits. Or the overused word/phrase in this book. In the last one, I must have used for a moment every other page. I suspect there's a new one that needs to be cleaned up.

The end needs a bit of a pick me up, also. But now that I have all that new stuff in there, I have more to work with. I'm excited to get back to it. And I can't wait to finish up so I can get this out to the next reader.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Garden Grows

We are having a warmer than normal spring. That means the spring veggies like peas, lettuce and beets are not overly happy. The warm weather veggies: beans, tomatoes and squash are flourishing. Luckily we have fairly cool nights so the spring veggies are still producing.

This year I planted a mix of leftover bean seed so I have purple and yellow string beans and some Italian beans. That should make for some interesting dinners. The purple are blooming now. Can wait to start harvesting.

The strawberries are done for the time being. They put out a meager harvest this year. I may need to replace that bed. I've read that they need to be replaced every 3 years or so. I think that bed is older than that.

The blueberries are just ripening. Picked a small handful yesterday. They are one of my favorites, so I'm very excited that they are coming in.

Unfortunately the birds beat me to the pie cherries. I had company and forgot to check the tree. The fruit must have ripened quickly because when I checked, a week later, there were about 6 half-eaten cherries left on the tree. I will plan to net that tree much earlier next year.

The plum is failing. It had some sort of canker, but flowered prolifically this year. I was treating the canker with neem, and seemed to be making some progress. However, the fruit is all going brown and moldy instead of ripening. Very disappointing. I may have to get it cut down. It might not be in the best place.

All of the heirloom tomatoes that I bought are flowering. I started spraying with Serenade fungicide right away. They look like they are all doing well. Fingers crossed that they survive the local blight.

My pattypan squashes are still small, but one bloomed yesterday. The flower was bigger than the entire plant and looked very silly.

Everything that I planted in the new cinderblock beds seem to be doing well. I'm not sure if it's because of the blocks or the fact that the soil I added is mostly compost. Perhaps a combination of the two.

All in all the garden is coming along quite nicely so far.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Drop in the Ocean - a Zen Approach to Art

Art in all its contortions--dance, poetry, painting, music, sculpture, novels--is all about sharing something. They are created for an audience. Whether they ever find that audience is an entirely different matter. However, the work must always be created with that thought in mind. And so the creator must deliver their message with utmost clarity.

Over the years, many incidents in my life have taught me about what I call the Zen Approach to art. The first one happened while I was in college. I was in a drawing class, working hard on a still life that the professor had set up. While we were all at work, the professor was chatting with someone just behind me. He came over and tore a scrap of paper off the bottom of my drawing to write a phone number. I was horrified. I was still in the precious state of mind that any drawing could be a masterpiece. So to me, my charcoal sketch on cheap paper had been violated. The professor, seeing my shock, said, "If you did it once, you can do it again."

I had no idea what he meant by that. Every time I started work on a piece of art, it was new. I was young. I didn't understand that drawing was a skill that must be developed through repetition. If I couldn't render something well, like faces, I avoided putting people in my paintings. It didn't occur to me that I could improve my skill by practice, and that much of the practice work would not be worthy of an audience.

The next big lesson came when I was working as a scenic artist. That is collaborative work. In many cases you are creating something designed by another, unless you are also the designer. Scenery can change or be cut at a moment's notice, but it always has to meet a high level of quality. Watching your hard work go into the trash is a stark lesson.

I once worked on a set for a pilot for a new TV show. It was a rush job, people working round the clock. The carpenters built an entire house and barn. The painters not only painted, but aged, decorated and weathered the new construction. Everything had to look old and worn. I worked in the barn, banging away at the beams to make them look distressed, and brushed thick paste over woodwork so they appeared to have multiple layers of paint. We were almost done when we got the word the pilot was cancelled. The whole thing went to the landfill.

Despite the possibility that the work would not be used, it had to be done to exacting detail. I remind myself of those lessons whenever I wonder about the lack of exposure for my books. Just because people aren't snapping them up doesn't mean I can let the level of quality lapse. I need to offer the best story I can write regardless of whether anyone ever reads it. If it meets my standards I can share it proudly and let that be my reward for the moment.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Every year, for the past 5 years, a certain portion of female family members get together at my house for a week of play time, gossip and relaxation. Lovely. That week has arrived.

It is a time of grounding for me. I reconnect with sisters and nieces and the occasional cousin or old friend. We go out on the town and I rediscover how much I enjoy the area where I'm living. Beautiful mountains, fun shops downtown, great restaurants, all remind me why I moved here in the first place.

It is also a time to get out of my head and into the present. Writing is a solitary occupation that involves the imagination. I spend hours every day thinking and plotting and basically day-dreaming my story on to the computer. Being with people, out doing things in the real world is rejuvenating to that process.

Besides being just flat out fun. We chat and snack and stroll and gossip. We catch up on each other's lives and trials and joys. We play games. We go out to eat. And best of all is Spa Day. Ahh, spa day.

So I am taking a small time away from the rewrite of Scattered Seeds. When I return to work, I expect to do so with great gusto!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dark Deeds Ebook in all formats

Dark Deeds is coming out on Smashwords this weekend. That means it should be available on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and a variety of other retailers within the week. I will have links up here under the Asher Blaine Mysteries tab and on the IAN website as soon as they are available.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

To Each Their Own

There is a lot of talk about knowing your target audience and marketing to them. But last week I read two books that were on opposite sides of my range of favorites. One book was a sort of paranormal - urban fantasy with a touch of romance. The other book was pure fantasy with battles and gods, quests and betrayals. I don't think those authors would be considered in the same subgenre -- but I really liked them both.

I also like coming of age and its opposite, stories of the crone. But again, I bet people don't think that is the same market.

I like quiet thoughtful bucolic fantasy and wild-ride urban fantasy.

So I'd like to twist that advice a little and say know your genre or subgenre and be aware of the expectations. Let the reader know up front what the story entails, be it ogres, werewolves, telepaths, aliens, space battles, quests, whatever. If it's clear what the story will contain, it will attract willing readers. Provided, of course, that you write the very best story you can.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Garden Report

The Bleeding Hearts are blooming.

We've had a rainy week that actually only served up an inch and a half all week.

The garden is coming along quite well this year. I have transitioned over to raised beds entirely. I have to say that they are a lot easier to keep up with.

I am launching a new line of ebooks about gardening called Sow it - Grow it - Serve it. They will be short books, almost a pamphlet, about 1 vegetable from seed to harvest to recipes with lots of pictures.

Part of my mission here is to introduce people to gardening and good food that they can grow for themselves. The other part is that I like the option to pick and choose. I have plenty of gardening books and cookbooks that I bought for a chapter or specific recipe. Being able to purchase just that chapter or recipe would have made me happy. Also I like pictures. Show don't tell, right?

Swiss chard will be the first one. I hope to have it published by May 1st. Check the blog for the upcoming books. I plan to keep publishing them throughout the year.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Free Audiobook on Audible

Have you ever wanted to try an audiobook?

Here's a 30 day free trial for Audible and you get a copy of White Lies narrated by Scott David Reeves for free.

Audible Free Trial

White Lies is the first in the Asher Blaine Mysteries Series. Dark Deeds, book 2, came out in February.

Asher is a humorous, lighthearted character who is trying so hard to do the right thing. I really enjoy writing him. He has a great sense of humor and is willing to make a fool of himself when it's necessary. And of course he has the worst luck on the planet.

This is a fun, fast-paced, cozy series without sex, minimal swearing and most of the violence is off-stage.

If you take advantage of this offer, I would love an honest review posted to Audible. And if you enjoy the book, please tell all your friends. Word of mouth is the most important advertising for an author.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dark Deeds Ebook Sale

A Kindle Countdown sale!

Starting on April 2nd, the Dark Deeds Kindle ebook will go on sale for 99cents for 3 days only.

On April 5th, the price will go up to $1.99.

On April 9th the price will return to $2.99.

Here's the link to Amazon

White Lies, the first book in the series, is available in ebook formats for 99 cents. Click on the tab above and scroll down for a choice of retailers.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rules to Use and Ignore

Rules about creative pursuits are slippery.

Just today I read a post from a young writer saying she didn't realize there were rules when she started and another from a veteran writer saying ignore the rules and write your heart out.

There are rules for spelling and grammar that need to be understood and adhered to or our writing would be unintelligible.

There are genre expectations that readers have. Sometimes those expectations can be turned on their heads for great effect, BUT that sort of thing is best done by someone who totally understands the genre. A mystery must be solved. The killer must be caught. The price of magic should be dire. The question put forward in the beginning of the story must be answered by the end.

All the rules put forth by advice books are mostly reminders to write as cleanly and clearly as possible. The war on adverbs fascinates me. I have a friend who cannot abide the use of the word just. Absorb that advice but don't let it inhibit your writing. Let it steer you to more careful and efficient use of language. We all have a word or phrase that we overuse. Be aware of your own bad habits and clean them up in the second draft.

To me, it all comes down to learning to be a competent storyteller. Once you understand the flow that a story needs to draw the reader along, you've learned all the rules you need. Then there is the presentation of that story which is a craft that should be constantly evolving.

Read, write, repeat. Reading in and out of your genre helps you pick up techniques to improve your own work. Writing is practice and every time you build a story you get better at it. Keep learning, keep an open mind and your skill will grow.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Social Media Gaffs

I have made a mess on Twitter. Luckily, I have so few followers, no one will notice.

I joined a site that offered help with social media. It said to use a specific hashtag and all the other members of the site would retweet your message. Sounds great. What goes around, comes around, right? So I found a retweeting service and dropped in that hashtag. Right away I started getting lots of thank yous for the retweeting. However, I didn't seem to be getting that many retweets of my own messages.

Then I read an article where a man said he checked the feed before following anyone on Twitter, and if it was just a run of Buy My Book tweets, he passed. I agreed. I hate seeing that stuff myself. But it made me wonder what my feed looked like. I was horrified when I checked.

My Twitter feed was a long list of authors crying Buy My Book! People I didn't know selling books I'd never seen. Yikes. It was like I was standing on a street corner shilling whatever a passerby handed me. That was not what I wanted people to see when they checked me out on Twitter.

So I turned off the automatic retweet.

Then I thought about how people say to have a conversation. Hmm. Where are these conversations? When I look at my Twitter home page it rarely has anything resembling a conversation. I was obviously looking in the wrong place.

I bit the bullet and signed up for TweetDeck. Eureka! I think I have found the conversations.

When I started following people on Twitter I put everyone I followed in a list, as had been suggested by a number of articles. Tweetdeck can give me a feed of each list. And that allows me to finally make some sense out of the barrage of tweets.

It also showed me the life of a tweet...not even a second? Tweets fly by so fast I can't even read who's sending them. Wow. I need to rethink and rework how I approach my tweeting.

Lesson learned.

Please leave any suggestions, tricks or gaffs in the comments.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Free Books for Honest Reviews - Story Cartel

I am experimenting with Story Cartel for Dark Deeds. It's a great set up for readers and authors. You can get any book on the site for free with the request that you give it an honest review.

You can get Dark Deeds HERE

Reviews are so important for authors. Not only do they help readers decide to purchase, they are a requirement for some advertising. A few of the better sites require a certain number of reviews at a certain average. For example - 5 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average.

For new authors getting reviews is difficult. I have sold about 40 ebooks of Lethal Seasons and I have 1 review on Amazon. There are a few more reviews on other sites, but for some advertisers only Amazon counts.

I've had friends balk at giving a review. "I loved the book, but I don't know what to say."

It isn't a book report, so get that childhood trauma right out of your head. A rehashing of the plot isn't what people want to see. As a reader, I want to hear about pacing and characters. Other people notice different things. I once got a review that said my sentences were too short.

A few lines about how you feel about the story is best.

"A face-paced story that had me on the edge of my seat."
"The pace plodded and I lost track of the characters."
"Loved the hero in the beginning, but he turned out to be a wimp."
"The side-kicks were hilarious. I want to see more of them."

As an author, hearing feedback like that might influence my next book. I don't write for the critics that will give me a finely honed review on all the nuances (or lack there of) in the story. I write for people who tell me they love the characters and want to visit with them again.

My favorite review so far is only 2 words: "So good." I wish s/he'd written a bit more. It would be great to know which parts they liked best, or least. But I am thankful s/he took the time to write a comment.

The next time you finish a story, remember to review it where you bought it!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't Eat the Couch

Do you ever find yourself saying inane things to your pet? Bertie seems to have a liking for stuffing - the pillow kind, not turkey-related. On one end of the couch the upholstery has been ripped open by various cats sharpening their claws and a little stuffing peeks through. Every now and then I catch Bertie licking it. And I end up yelling, “Don’t eat the couch!” It goes along with: “Don’t chew on the chair,” “Don’t swallow the yarn,” and a generic “No biting!”
I think commands to animals need to be short and to the point. I caught my sister trying to reason with her cat. As Rascal was sharpening her claws on the side of the chair, in a conversational tone, Rose said, “We don’t do that on Mommy’s chair.” Needless to say, Rascal did not stop. I suggested she try, “No!” or even “Stop!” I didn’t think a full sentence would do the job.
Bertie is a chewer. She rips apart any cardboard she can get her teeth on, leaving sheds all over the floor. She likes to chew on sticks in the kindling pile. And she had started trying to tear apart the blue rocker in the picture above.
I bought her some chew toys that were made for dogs which she disdainfully batted under the refrigerator. It isn't easy being the servant of a cat.
Bertie, Queen of Socks, guards my clean laundry. She's quite possessive. I can't put them away until she tires of them, or abandons her post to go bite something.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dark Deeds in Print

The print book is now available!

This has been an very interesting book launch. I was sick, my editor was sick, then I was almost okay, and then I was sick again. That took up most of January and the beginning of February. As a result, I didn't do all the things I had planned to do for the launch of Dark Deeds.

The publication date was delayed. No big deal, it was my own artificial deadline. And looking at the sales, very few people were even aware it was late.

Not much advertising was set up. I felt a little panicky, that I had missed out on an important event. But then I remembered - this is the long-tail approach. I can set up advertising for tomorrow, or next week, it doesn't matter. The book is up there for as long as I leave it there.

In fact, it makes more sense to spend some dollars on advertising after the book has a few reviews. Pushing a book with no reviews isn't easy. I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste to spend time and money marketing a book with no reviews. Quite a few of the better ad sites require a certain number of reviews at a specific star average - like 10 reviews with a 3.5 average - before they will accept a book.

So that's the next step with this book.

If you would like a free copy of Dark Deed to review, please email me at m.alice.sabo(at)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dark Deeds Presales

The Dark Deeds ebook is now available for presales on Amazon. Place your order now!

The ebook will be released on Friday the 13th. The print book will come out before the end of the month.