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Monday, November 28, 2011

Newsy Links

The inimitable Cate Masters has invited me to her new blog, a very special blog with the sole purpose of showcasing authors and their new releases. It's called TBR. Cate's obviously in a frail state of mind because she's letting me appear twice next year. Poor thing.

My first post will be on January 2, 2012, which means you'll barely have time to get sober. 

Meanwhile if you're an author, or a reader who wants to keep up with authors' shenanigans er, books, put this blog on your Reader.  Authors, if you have a release coming out, sign up now while good spots are available. Tell Cate I sent you--and that I'm sorry I caught her in a weak moment.

***

It's official. Google Friend Connect will be retired in March for non-Blogger sites. Go here for the details. I'm assuming that means it will still be available to those of us using Blogger. Not that it makes a difference to me. I read everyone through my Reader. But if you read me through GFC, you might want to subscribe to my blog. The link is on the upper right.

***
Da Girls

My young chickens are laying! Perfect little brown eggs. I am waiting to hear from the nearest farmer's market to find out if I can sell eggs there in the spring. If these chickens are anything like their mothers, I will have eggs by the dozens.

Who wants breakfast? How do you like your eggs?
Freeloader and Cad



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Indulgence Has Begun

It starts with the Roast Beast.
It's Thanksgiving Day in the US but we celebrated yesterday since Greg is leaving this morning. On the menu was 'Roast Beast' (rib roast), homemade apple pie, asparagus, homemade mashed potatoes, spinach and snap peas salad, biscuits and one very tired wife.

Today I rest. Greg takes home leftovers. And the dogs are dreaming of roast beast leftovers. Dream on, boys. 

I hope today is a good day for you wherever you are.

What's on your menu today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trending

I'm an avid trend-watcher and base my predictions by extrapolating trends to their logical conclusion. The publishing world is still in huge flux and I think it'll get worse before it gets better.

Penguin recently announced it had created Book Country, a self-publishing package for writers. (A very pricey package at that.) Dean Wesley Smith posted an excellent report on Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and the unsettling remarks by Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Literary Agency. Notice on Trident's page that they never call it self-publishing, yet that's what it looks like to me.

Because I edit the newsletter for OWW, (Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror) I've long kept track of agents and their blogs. Fewer are blogging about the fantastic deals they've made for their clients. Some have established self-publishing arms for their business. Others have simply disappeared.

Giants like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Barnes & Noble are expanding their empires, robbing traditional publishing of their leads before the trads get a chance to react.

But the most telling development of all, the one I've been watching closely, has been with the average consumer. Every time I see someone with a book or an e-reader, I always ask what they like to read and how they choose what they read.

The two most common answers? Mystery is the top favorite, followed closely by romance. The people I polled said they buy the author--not the publisher or the genre. If they like someone, they simply keep buying him until he starts to disappoint. (This doesn't apply to the giants like King, Rowling, The Nora, and Patterson. Their fans will read them no matter what.)

This is a most unscientific poll, but I've been doing it for so long, it's begun to form a pattern.

But the trend that struck me as most dramatic has come from yard sales. You can tell a lot by the things we recycle and dispose. I've been seeing a significant drop in paper books at backyard sales. Even at used book stores, recent releases are fewer and snapped up quickly. Books that sold poorly on their release glut the shelves and languor there.

This can mean several results in 2012.

• Smaller demand could make paper books more expensive to produce and buy, reducing author advances even further.
• Traditional publishers might have to turn their operations to Print On Demand (POD) to stay solvent.
• Watchdog groups and lawyers will be scrutinizing traditional publishers even more as publishers try to lure unsuspecting authors to self-publish with them.
• Droves of authors will try self-publishing and fail. Not because their work is bad, but because they'll drown in obscurity as the market becomes increasingly glutted.

Not very cheery, is it? What we need is an outfit that can stream new book releases through many outlets at once, aggregated in such a way that it'll be easy for the consumer to window shop in their jammies. 

Amazon has done this best, but Google with its massive reach ought to be able to tap a few smart people who can create an entirely digital shopping experience.

What can authors do? Write more. Chat less. Sometimes, we insulate ourselves among peers and rabid readers, forgetting there is a huge group of consumers out there who don't give a flying fig who's got a blog tour or a book trailer. They just want something to read and your book happened to have caught their eye.

Call them the real silent majority. They're the ones calling the shots now.

Thoughts?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Framed!

It had to happen sooner or later. I've been brought in for questioning. Not only that, but they interrogated the dogs, the husband, and even the chickens.

I'm innocent, I tell ya. 

Well...mostly innocent.

Stop over at Live Out Loud and see for yourself. I was so mistreated! Honestly, I thought she was going to resort to torture at one point. Live Out Loud (Jennifer) had me cuffed and sitting in front of a tv when she waved a gummy dvd of Jersey Shore before my eyes.

At least I think it was Jersey Shore. It had women with big hair and orange skin. :shudders: I cracked shortly thereafter.

Please leave a comment at Live Out Loud and be my character witness.

Tweet my innocence! 

***

I brought up something yesterday and I was shocked at the response I got from Greg. I mentioned how it would be nice if I could host a real writing retreat here at Casa Zannini during the winter when the rest of the country was freezing and he LIKED it.

Well, what he actually said was: "Sure, as long as I don't have to be here." LOL.

I only have two spare bedrooms--and possibly three if I bought a third bed. Extra folks would have to bunk at a hotel and commute to the country. I don't know what I would charge for two weeks in Texas Paradise either. I mean, there'd be room & board, chickens, dogs, and inspiration. And early SPRING. That should be worth something.

Maybe I'll think on it again come February or March.

What do you think? Do people still go on writing retreats?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest: Darke Conteur

Please say howdy to Darke Conteur and show her what a nice crowd we are. 

After reading her post, it begs the question: What genre do you love best--and why?

***

Thank you so much, Maria! First, I want to thank Maria for allowing me to take over her blog today. I've been reading her entries for some time now, and was thrilled when she said I could add her to my blog tour.

I am Darke Conteur, and I write paranormal and scifi stories. My work tends to lean a little toward the dark side. No elves, unicorns, or helpful aliens here! Instead, I like to write about things that lurk in shadows and feed off our fear, and sometimes off us as well. 

For years I had no idea what genre I wrote. I thought it was horror, but lately I've come to understand that I write in the genre of category of Dark Fantasy. I don’t think there is a genre as diverse or as fascinating as Dark Fantasy. 

I read science fiction to escape into the future, and historical fiction to escape into the past, but what is it about the darker side of fiction that draws us to it? Do I have a hidden desire to become immortal? To possess supernatural abilities? Do we read this genre secretly hoping that what we’ve written is true, and that perhaps, we are the privileged few granted access into a world others dismiss? 

Yet who would want to venture into a world full of demons and vampires and zombies? I wouldn't. People die in these worlds, either physically, or their humanity dies, and yet there is a growing number of people who can’t get enough. There has to be something about it that makes it so attractive!

Our ancestors told us fantasy stories as a means of moral guidance. The character-singing, fluffy fairy tales that our children hold so dear, are a sugar-coated comparison to the original brutal tales of death. Their stories were a constant reminder that the world was a dangerous place, and if one strayed off the path, your fate was sealed. Perhaps this is the attraction? 

Do we long to tread away from the safety net of civilization? To live in danger and feel the blood course through our veins? Perhaps life has become too benign, and we need the diversion, that spark that can only come in the way of a good dark fantasy novel.

For whatever reason, the lure of a good dark fantasy novel will always be there. Frightening us or luring us into a world nothing like our own, all from the safety of our favourite reading place. 


THE WATCHTOWER: His first day of work wasn't what Martin Cunningham expected. A sultry boss, a classy receptionist, the drama-queen foreigner, and a painfully shy techie who prefers hiding to human interaction, was the oddest group of characters he'd ever met. When an assassination attempt is made against his new boss, Martin comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares.

Now he and his new co-workers must race to prevent another attack, but where do they start? There's very little to go on, and the only solid piece of evidence escaped through the u-bend in the toilet. By the end of the day, Martin becomes one of the privileged few who really understands what lies in the shadows, and what it means to work in THE WATCHTOWER.




Bio: Darke Conteur is an author at the mercy of her muse. Writing in several genres, she prefers to write in paranormal and science fiction, and has stories published in Brave Blue Mice, Bewildering Stories, and The Absent Willow Review. When not busy writing, she looks after one wannabe rock-star, one husband, two cats, and one ghost dog.





Monday, November 14, 2011

Chicken Adventures: A Narrow Escape

I've heard of narrow escapes before but this one takes the cake. 

There's a good-sized gap between the gate and fence on the dog run. It's big enough for even a fat chicken to get in. Now any animal with intelligence is not going to waltz into a run guarded by two oversized rottweilers, but chickens aren't particularly renown for their intelligence. Besides the run was lush with bright green grass. What bird in his right mind could pass that up?

Enter one ditzy buff orpington who only had eyes for grass and not the 101lb bored rottie who pounced on her like a freight train. Iko loves squeaky toys and this chicken didn't disappoint. Round and round they raced. 

Tank watched idly, no doubt wondering why Iko would bother with a chicken still on the hoof. He prefers his game cooked and lightly seasoned. 

The chicken was already in Iko's mouth when I popped open the doggie door. "Drop it," I yelled.  

Not a dog to pass up opportunity, Iko took a few moments to consider the alternatives. But I think that look of murder in my eyes made him reevaluate any further evil. He dropped the chicken regretfully.

That chicken knew salvation when she saw it. She leapt to her feet, took a lap around Iko and then under his belly, past an unimpressed Tank, and straight through the doggie door, JUMPING into my arms.

I. kid. you. not.

I barely believed it myself. It was like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Her little chicken heart was beating out of her chest like a boomerang and she murmured a low steady cluck that roughly translated to: "Holy crap! That was close." I'm pretty sure she suffered an out-of-body experience.

I cradled her in my arms and ferried her back to a (non-dog) pen where she could think about her indiscretions and about where she went wrong.

Safe again.
Iko got a stern warning for chasing. And Tank, the only well-behaved resident of Crazy Town got a cookie.

Good Tank. Lucky chicken.

***

We've had nonstop company this week, a visit with one of my favorite readers on the weekend, and even a lengthy stopover from my favorite husband. I'm expecting friends, family and assorted company for the next two weeks to boot. A little atypical for me. I'm not normally this popular.

***

Tomorrow: Please stop by and visit with my guest, Darke Conteur when she describes what made dark fantasy so appealing to her. It's food for thought about how we all choose our favorite reads.

Be a pal and show a new author some lovin'. See ya tomorrow!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friends, Followers & Fans

There's speculation that Google Friends Connect may go bye-bye. The forum for GFC was closed down in January. Google has made some changes across the board on Blogger and its Reader, but nothing earth-shattering. The only big news is that Google+ is being integrated with some of its other platforms. 

I don't like being forced into applications. If I had wanted Google+, I would've joined. They're just beating that poor dead horse.

I've reached a saturation point with these social networking sites. Now people are pushing Klout, which allegedly shows how influential you are by calculating the reach of your FB posts or Tweets. 

All I want to do is sell my books. That's enough influence for me.

***
And speaking of selling books. I spent all night updating The Devil To Pay--and that was just the peripherals.

I changed my name on the cover art to the same font I used for Chain of Souls so they'd look more series-like. I also added the blurb and link to Chain of Souls to the front and back matter of The Devil To Pay.

Two minor changes and I was at it ALL night. I was having trouble getting into the Kindle site, then I kept losing my internet connection, and then I couldn't figure out how to make it a MobiPocket file. The link I was looking for wasn't there.

It was so frustrating. But it's updated now and I have a nice clean Mobi file. I have to change the Smashwords edition too, but I need to recoup my strength first. For someone who hates tech, I sure get knee-deep in it daily.

B&N has not answered my emails about missing sales, but I did get a cryptic email from someone admonishing me for not linking my book to the right web site. She claims I'm linking to Borders. Um...I don't think so.

I suspect something is really screwy at B&N. I don't think I'll upload future books there. They've lost my trust.

Sales have been slow for Chain of Souls. Is it because I'm not touring this time, or is it because I haven't approached very many book bloggers for reviews? I don't know. 

I'm still trying to sort out my time versus revenue. Hand-selling each book is time-consuming. I don't mind doing it, but at some point the books have to start selling themselves. I have yet to land that big audience that will give me word-of-mouth street cred. 

The few faithful readers I have are wonderful and so loyal it makes me cry. But I really need to find the rest of my audience soon.

By the way, if you've read Chain of Souls, I'd love it if you could leave a review somewhere. I could use all the help I can get.

***
So tell me, do you think having a lot of friends and followers equates to popularity? What do you think makes a blog popular?

Aside from good posts, I think it's the interaction. Hardly a week goes by someone doesn't tell me that my commenters are just as interesting as my posts. 

That's an awful nice compliment and it means more to me that a boatload of avatars. Those of you who comment are the real engines behind this blog. People visit here as much for you as they do for me. I hope in turn that's netted you more followers on your blogs and sales for your books.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm With Stupid

For several weeks the battery on my "smart" phone has been running down within hours even though it has a full charge every morning. It was also getting hot.

I've got the Droid. It's a good little phone with internet capability. Aside from the fact that it won't ring in my house and never tells me when I have voicemails waiting, it serves my purpose. But the battery issue was new and since I'd read hot batteries could start fires, I grew a little concerned and decided to get a new battery.

I explained my problem to cute little Becky, expecting to shell out the forty bucks for a new battery. Instead, she says: "How many apps do you have?"

"Huh?"

"Apps," she repeats louder. Obviously she doesn't realize that I'm stupid, not deaf.

She checks my phone and there are dozens of apps on my phone. Where the heck did they come from? She tells me Droid puts them in and I can't remove them. But then she notices I have VZ Navigator installed, a recent addition when I got lost trying to find a friend's house. 

"That one," she says "will suck you dry." (I'm sure she meant the app.)

She asks me if I'd like to try an app killer before I buy the battery, and recommended Advanced Task Killer Froyo. It sounded rather permanent to me, but she assured me it works great and that she uses it on her phone. 

That girl's fingers whizzed by so fast she was a blur. Within seconds she had installed this app and then put it on some default mode so I'd never have to touch it again. "Try it," she says. "If it doesn't work we'll order you a battery."

I went home, discouraged. I mean, I have underwear older than this girl. What does she know? But I was willing to give it a shot. 

Believe it or not, it solved my problem. No more hot phone, and no more drained battery. I get to keep my navigator and my killer.

I told Greg this story and admitted that I felt awfully dumb next to these kids. They can text, and sync, and game faster than I can tie my shoes. Cute little Becky talked about all these apps like she designed them herself. It depressed me that I couldn't hang with her ilk.

But Greg made me feel better. He said: "And how many of them can write complete sentences, dress out a whole pig, or diagnose a sick dog? How many know how to shoot, garden, and are willing to go head to head with a wild coyote?"

It's all relative, I suppose. But I still feel dumb. One of these days technology is going to pass me up all together. But if those kids ever need a crash course on how to splint a broken leg or re-plumb a house, I'm their mama. 

Do you ever worry that technology might pass you by? Can you text and game like the current crop of youngsters?  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Terrible, Mean, Rotten and One Good Thing

Generally I don't like to air dirty laundry--especially if it isn't mine, but I've been shaking my head for two days now from an assortment of tweets and blog posts I've read recently.

The biggest bone in my craw is piracy. If you haven't been affected, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know the feeling. It's nothing short of being gang-raped.

There's a YouTube video of Neil Gailman who claims piracy has helped him sell more books. He gives this calm, well-reasoned argument on how he tested this theory and how well it worked for him. 

To which I respond, BS, buddy. 

Piracy might be a boon for him, but I don't make millions off my work. He does. If people steal from him, it's a drop in the bucket. If they steal from me, it might be all the sales I might've made that month. 

So Neil, please don't excuse pirates across the board for all of us. That it nets you additional promotional outlets is a bonus for you, but it's a death knell for the 'little' author. 

Recently, a friend of mine found her book downloaded on ONE site, 974 times. Multiply that by the four bucks she was asking for that book and you get some idea of how much it hurts us.

It's a travesty that the general reading public can't even grasp because they think, well it's just one book. What can it hurt? 

PLEASE pay for our books. You can steal from Neil Gaiman all you want, but at least allow the rest of us to make a living.

***
Another angry tweet trash-talked boring bloggers and tweets that do promo. Side note: When I did some investigating, the leading accuser was just as guilty of promo overload. Kettle/Black

As for boring... Do you know what I do when I find a post or tweet boring? I ignore it. See how easy that is?

I don't worry if anyone else is boring. I concentrate on making my blog posts and promo tweets interesting. Or as my mother used to say, clean up your own mess before you complain about someone else's.

***
B&N is stiffing me. Please DON'T buy my books from Barnes & Nobles for a while. I've discovered that not only is B&N not recording sales for Chain of Souls, but they have yet to answer my repeated emails. I am thinking of pulling Chain of Souls from them.

If you bought this book from B&N, chances are, I'll never get paid for it. I'll post an update should they ever respond.

Just to sour the pot, publishers have been caught not paying their authors too. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this business.

***
And finally one good thing. I checked my counter the other day and kept noticing a lot of hits from Romance University. Apparently, Eleanor Elliott, director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin/Carina mentioned me in her article about good branding. 

I try to keep my message clean--in other words I try not to muddy it up with too many ideas at once. Yes, I write many different subgenres, but I focused on the one thing that made them all the same. Which is how I came up with: Tales of OtherWorlds

By the way, it's an excellent article if you're interested in a marketing checklist.