Sunday, March 31, 2013

GoodZon, and promoting e-books.

First, let's wrap up some old business.  Congrats to the winners of autographed sets of the first three Pipe Woman Chronicles books: on Goodreads, Ebonique Knighton; and on LibraryThing, Kristy Choi.  Thanks for entering, ladies!  Here's hoping you like the series.

Also, many, many thanks to those of you who have already purchased Gravid!  It does my heart good to know that you like the Pipe Woman Chronicles well enough to get the fourth book the minute it came out.  However, I was dismayed to learn that some folks didn't know Gravid was out until this weekend.  I've been resisting the setup of an e-mail list because I know how I feel about marketing e-mails -- i.e., most of them go straight to my spam folder, where I never see them and never miss them.  But I'm learning that I just can't rely on posts on my Facebook page.  So I think this week, I'm going to succumb, if only so y'all will know when Annealed is released.  I'll post signup details, uh, multiple places, including here.

The big news in the world of indie publishing this week was the purchase of Goodreads by Amazon.  There was a lot of doom-and-gloom speculation about how this will ruin Goodreads, how this will ruin indie authors' hopes of success, etc., etc.  I was less inclined to believe it will hurt us after I learned that Amazon also owns 40 percent of LibraryThing -- as well as IMDb.  As far as I can tell, the Zon hasn't really changed anything about the day-to-day operations of either of those websites, and so I doubt that much will change at Goodreads, either.  In both of those acquisitions, as well as in the acquisition of Shelfari, what Amazon was after was the sites' databases of ratings and reviews.  I suspect that's what Amazon really wants out of Goodreads, too.

David Gaughran opined about the deal in a blog post about the purchase earlier this week.  He thinks the acquisition will help indies in the long run, mainly by giving us more opportunities to advertise on Goodreads (color me skeptical about that) and by boosting the visibility of Amazon links (which definitely will help).  I think as long as Goodreads doesn't implement the same draconian review policies as Amazon -- and Goodreads's CEO has said that won't happen -- then I'm cautiously optimistic that indies will be okay.  But time will tell.  In any case, I'm going to take Gaughran's advice in the meantime:  Keep writing.

There's always a moment in any live event -- interview, public speaking engagement, whatever -- when I feel like I've lost the plot. So, of course, I had one during my talk on e-publishing in Indianapolis last weekend.  Toward the end of the discussion, someone in the audience asked me whether I ever did any book signings or talked to book clubs, or did any other promotional events.  And I confessed that I do almost none of that stuff, and that in fact I kind of suck at self-promotion in general.  So the kindly people in the audience then began giving me tips about finding venues and so on.

It didn't occur to me until I was on my way home (awake and sitting up in coach in the middle of the night, which is another story entirely) why I don't bother with it:  I'm selling e-books.

I thought about Cheryl Tardif (whose latest book you read about here a couple of weeks ago).  In her book touting her KDP Select success, she talks about how she spent years doing exactly what these kindly souls suggest -- running from personal appearance to personal appearance, more than 40 per year, and endlessly flogging her books. But after she put her books up on Amazon, she made more money than she ever had by making all those personal appearances.
I do make paperback editions available for all my books, as a convenience for people who don't have an e-reader.  But I sell far more e-books than I do paperbacks, and I earn more from each e-book than I do from each paperback.  So tell me again why I should make myself crazy by running hither and yon to sell dead-tree books.  I can reach more potential readers with a Facebook ad, or even a blog post, than I can with a personal appearance.  And I don't have to sit up all night in coach.

Oh, there is one more thing.  Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow (no fooling!), so I'll be pretty busy working on Annealed in my spare time for the next few weeks.  I don't plan to miss any posts here, but just...well...fair warning.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Travel broadens the mind, and stuff.

I'm writing to you today from the home of friends in Indianapolis, where I am spending the day the same way I've spent several other days this winter:  waiting for Snowmageddon.  We had one band of snow this morning; it left traces on the grass and melted away.  Tonight we are supposed to receive another six, or ten, or maybe a bazillion inches.  The forecasters said the Big Kahuna is delayed, but it's definitely coming.  But yesterday's high was over 50 degrees (that's Farenheit, for my international readers).  This whole thing smells, to me, a lot like the last life-changing storm we were supposed to get in DC several weeks ago, when the ground was just too warm for anything to stick.  But I'm a guest here, so I'm trying not to scoff too openly.  I'm also hoping that I am Indy's good-luck charm and that I've brought a piece of the DC snow hole with me.  And while I'm at it, I'm hoping that Indy handles snow better than DC does, and that even if we do get whacked, I'll still be able to make my bus to Chicago tomorrow for the train home.  We shall see.

I came to Indy, by the way, to give a little talk on e-publishing to my friend's Sisters in Crime chapter.  Sisters in Crime is an organization of writing groups, most of whose members write in the mystery/crime/thriller genre.  I'm not much for those, as you know, but I've self-published a few books now, and these folks wanted to know how to do it.  And they were so enthusiastic!  I was afraid I'd have a roomful of e-book skeptics to convert, but no, they were ready to do it and just needed to know how.

Of course, I forgot to bring the handout of resources that I made, so I'm adding a tab up top and will copy the doc's contents there (note to self: DON'T forget to do that...).  If you're interested in learning more about how to publish your own books, feel free to check it out.

In any case, it was very nice to meet everybody yesterday!  I had a terrific time.

In other news:  As you know, Gravid launched on Wednesday.  Thanks to those of you who have bought the book already -- hope you're enjoying it.  Thanks also to the folks who entered both my Goodreads and LibraryThing giveaways.  I left the names of the winners at home (of course), so I'll have to post them next week.  But I mailed the books before I left town, so the prizes are already on their way.

I also have a giveaway going on here, as you know.  Congrats to Linda McKinney, who won the bookmarks and the Amazon gift card.  I'll get all that to you when I get back home later this week.

I'm going to kick back now and enjoy the rest of my mini-vacation, because once I get home, the real fun starts: finishing the first draft of Annealed.  Wish me luck.  Camp NaNoWriMo, here I come....

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Interview with Cheryl Kaye Tardif, international bestselling author of SUBMERGED

On Sunday, I promised y'all a midweek treat, and here it is: an interview with Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of SUBMERGED. We're swapping blogs today, in honor of the publication of GRAVID. Be sure to head to Cheryl's blog and say hi over there when you're done here. Thanks!

As part of her official Blog Tour, Cheryl is celebrating her new release with a 60-prize giveaway and stops at over 30 blogs. I asked Cheryl about the supernatural aspect of her new thriller…

Cheryl, how is SUBMERGED different from other thrillers?

SUBMERGED isn't just a fast-paced, hold-your-breath type of thriller where every second counts; it also has a subtle paranormal element with the appearance of ghosts. For some readers, these apparitions may seem to be only in the character's imagination. Many of us will be able to identify with the need to "see" someone who has passed. For other readers, the ghosts may seem very real and believable. It really is up to the reader to determine this.

What percentage would you say represents the supernatural aspect?

Maybe 5%. It is there for a reason, but it's not the key theme in the novel. Most of the story revolves around the ticking clock theme—that time is running out and that death is imminent if something or someone doesn't stop it from happening. The supernatural aspect evolves very naturally.

Why are supernatural elements (visions, psychic gifts, ghosts) so prevalent in your works?

I have always been drawn to the unknown, to ghosts, psychics, etc. It is a mystery that I yearn to solve, but yet terrifies me at the same time. There is much we do not know. Much we cannot explain. Sometimes there are 51 shades of grey, and not everything is black or white. We are made of energy, so what really happens when we die? Where does that energy really go?

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one?

Yes, and yes. I have had a few paranormal experiences in my life. I still remember going to bed one night when I was about 4 and being touched on the shoulder by a ghost. His shadow crossed over me, scaring me. Only my parents were home and when I asked them the next day, they said neither of them came into my room. Later, my aunt saw the ghost of a man in the same house; I didn't learn this until I was an adult. I have also been visited by loved ones as they have passed away. That's what I believe. To me, there's just no other explanation.

Do you think the ghost element in SUBMERGED is believable and will readers embrace it?

I think readers will find the ghostly appearances natural within the story. While some readers may not believe in the existence of ghosts, I think it'll be believable to them in this context. If not, they'll put it down to Marcus's imagination. And that's okay too. Readers thoroughly embraced CHILDREN OF THE FOG, my last thriller, and it also has a ghost theme. So there's no doubt in my mind that SUBMERGED will be equally as accepted and enjoyed.

From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…

"Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl."
—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn't the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger's calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.

*SUBMERGED has a unique tie-in to Tardif`s international bestseller, CHILDREN OF THE FOG.

More Reviews:

"From the first page, you know you are in the hands of a seasoned and expert storyteller who is going to keep you up at night turning the pages. Tardif knows her stuff. There's a reason she sells like wildfire—her words burn up the pages. A wonderful, scary, heart-pumping writer." —M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction

"Tardif once again delivers a suspenseful supernatural masterpiece." —Scott Nicholson, international bestselling author of The Home

"From the first page, Cheryl Kaye Tardif takes you hostage with Submerged—a compelling tale of anguish and redemption." —Rick Mofina, bestselling author of Into the Dark

"Cheryl Kaye Tardif's latest novel SUBMERGED will leave you as haunted as its characters." —Joshua Corin, bestselling author of Before Cain Strikes

"Submerged will leave you breathless—an edge of your seat, supernatural thrill ride." —Jeff Bennington, bestselling author of Twisted Vengeance

Get SUBMERGED today.

Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at and follow her on Twitter.

Enter Cheryl’s March Giveaway – 59 Prizes!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

This has been an odd week.

So usually, as alert readers of this blog know, I have a little news-about-me section, and then a longer post about something that I figure people actually want to read about.  And this week I've got tons of topics that deserve a whole blog post, to wit:
  1. John Scalzi's withering take-down of Random House's contract for its new Hydra imprint, which was at least partly responsible for the publisher's revision of the contract terms (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, of which Scalzi is president, also threatened to de-list Hydra from its qualified professional markets on the basis of the original contract). Scalzi has put together a list of his posts on the subject here; I recommend reading "New Writers, Ebook Publishers, and the Power to Negotiate" in particular.
  2. Unfortunately, the PublishAmerica class-action suit I wrote about last year has been dismissed -- but another is in the works.  The same law firm that's looking into Author Solutions' deceptive practices (and if you've been a victim of any of their imprints, please go here and let them know) has filed an amended complaint against PublishAmerica.  Fingers crossed that this suit doesn't meet the same fate as the previous one.  Both Author Solutions and PublishAmerica have been raking in money for decades by preying on naive newbie authors.  It's time they were stopped.
  3. Or I could talk about all the other people out there who would like to part indie authors from their money.  One example is eBookPlus, which Rich Meyer wrote about this week on Indies Unlimited.  They want to bring down the cost of e-books (isn't that nice of them?) by inserting ads into each book.  Specifically, they want to put an ad at the beginning of every chapter.  Yeah, no.
But I'm just not going to have time to cover any of those things the way I'd like to, because this week I need to talk about me.  Damn the luck anyhow.

On Tuesday, Seized was named a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.  To recap what that means: Amazon cut off entries at 10,000 books.  Of those 10,000 entries, we're now down to 500 -- and Seized is one of them.  It's heartening and humbling at the same time.  You can read the excerpt here; feel free to add your comments.  Semifinalists (just 25, aieee!) will be announced April 16th.

Speaking of heartening/humbling, I received word this weekend that Seized is up for another award: the Big Al's Books and Pals Reader's Choice award.  This one, I need your help with.  Voting opens tomorrow and runs for two weeks.  I'll post the link to the ballot on my Facebook page and G+ profile as soon as I have it, and I'd be very pleased if y'all would then click through and vote for Seized.

I'm also gearing up for my presentation on indie publishing to the Indianapolis chapter of Sisters in Crime next weekend.  If you happen to be riding the Amtrak Cardinal from DC to Indy on Friday, look for me.  I'll be in coach, trying to sleep....

If all that's not enough, this is launch week for Gravid.  On Wednesday, I'm trying something different -- I'm trading posts with another author.  Cheryl Kaye Tardif has a new book out called Submerged.  It's a thriller, but it has some paranormal elements, and you guys are an eclectic bunch anyway.  So I'm going to post a Q&A with her here while she hands her blog over to me for a guest post.  I know that Wednesday is an odd day for a post at hearth/myth, but I hope y'all will stop by and say hi.  Oh, she's running a contest, too.

And so am I!  Three, count 'em, three contests:
  1. At Goodreads, I'm handing out an autographed set of the first three Pipe Woman Chronicles books.  There's a link over to the left.  Contest ends Wednesday.
  2. Same-same at LibraryThing. Their giveaway list is harder to navigate (I couldn't figure out how to link to my specific contest), but I tell you what, if you're looking for the best odds, as of this writing I've got 24 entries at LibraryThing and more than 100 at Goodreads.  Just sayin'.
  3. Right here.  I've got two very cool holographic bookmarks up for grabs -- one with a black panther and one with a leopard (which is the closest I could get to a jaguar -- apologies to you purists). What the picture doesn't show is the way the leopard stands out from the background, and the way the panther jumps closer to you when you move the bookmark back and forth.  Oh, and I'm throwing in a $10 gift card to the e-bookseller of your choice -- Amazon, B&N, Kobo or Smashwords.
Good luck!

The Rules (sorry, gotta have 'em):
  1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
  2. Winners from my previous contests may win again. 
  3. Someone will win.  I am getting this stuff out of my house, one way or the other.
  4. As always, the judge's decisions are arbitrary, capricious, and final.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Luuuke, I am your..." "Ack! No! Spoiler!"

I have a friend who, bless her heart, hates spoilers.  Hates 'em.  We were talking at one point about Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next books (which are hilarious, by the way) and I happened to mention that in one of the books, he includes one of my all-time favorite jokes.  "Don't tell me," she said.

"Well, but I'm just going to tell you the joke," I said.  "It doesn't have anything to do with the plot -- it's just a joke."

"Please don't do it," she said.  "If you do, I'll be waiting for the joke and it will spoil the book for me."

That seemed like an extreme case to me.  But there are a whole lot of people who don't like to be spoilered before they've had a chance to read a book -- or see a movie.  My daughter Kat says friends told her everything about "Rise of the Guardians" well before she had a chance to see the movie -- and in fact, she still hasn't seen it.  Even today, there are probably people who would be angry at me if I told them Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father, even though "The Empire Strikes Back" has been out for thirty-three years.  (Gods.  Thirty-three years.  Here, let me sit down for a sec....  Okay, I'm better now.  Thanks.)

Interestingly, though, it's been shown that spoilers can actually add to your enjoyment of a work of fiction.  Researchers at the University of California-San Diego did a study in which they found that readers who knew what was coming at the end of a story enjoyed the story more.

If you've ever re-read a book, you might have experienced this.  Did you find yourself lingering over the book the second time?  Savoring certain favorite passages?  Maybe it was because you weren't racing headlong to the end to find out what happened.  Because you already knew the ending, you could relax on the re-read and stop to smell the flowers along the way.

A lot of authors complain about spoilers in book reviews.  Some reviewers will retell practically the whole story, as if they're doing a book report.  Some authors are livid when that happens because they believe it will spoil the book for new readers.  Me?  I'm just grateful for a review -- any review.  Just don't totally give away the ending.

I hope you guys enjoyed the Tapped travelogue this week on my Facebook page.  (Pretty sure the pictures didn't spoil anything....)  I happened to glance at the calendar on Monday and think, "Hmm, this is the week that Naomi and Shannon are in South Dakota, isn't it?  Hey, I could post some pictures!"  And it was off to the races.  If you missed it, or if you're not a fan of my Facebook page, click here and head on over to take a gander.  (And feel free to click "like" while you're there.  Thanks!)  I had fun finding the pictures and I sure hope none of the copyright holders track me down and sue me for using them....  If you'd rather not go hunting all over my timeline to find the pictures, I've also got them pinned to a board on Pinterest, which you can view by clicking here.

Gravid is greenlighted (yes, it's a verb -- leave me alone) for publication on March 20th, give or take a day.  More details to come...

Yes, I've signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month.  I need to get moving on writing Annealed and this should light a fire under my butt.  I've set 50,000 words as my goal, but I'm hoping to start writing the book well before April 1st.  If I manage that, I will probably adjust my NaNo goal downward -- which, it turns out, you can do during Camp NaNo.  Who knew?

Finally, welcome to anybody who made his or her way here from Smashwords' Read an Ebook Week!  I hope you enjoy your stay.

You want to hear the joke?  Okay, but don't complain to me that I spoiled the book for you by telling it here....  Fforde presents it in a slightly different way, but the punch line is the same.  Here's how I heard it:

A reporter was doing man-on-the-street interviews -- you know, where you poke a microphone in a random stranger's face, ask him or her a question, and then record the answer.  This particular day, the question was, "What's the most amazing invention you've ever heard of?"

This one fellow stops and thinks for a moment, and then he says, "The thermos."

"Really?" the reporter asks.  "Why's that?"

"Well," the fellow says, "it keeps hot things hot, and cold things cold."

"Okay.  And?"

And the fellow asks, "How does it know?"

(rimshot)  Thank you!  I'm here all week!

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Between you and me, grammar matters.

First, a couple of bits of housekeeping: You'll notice a new book cover added to the slide show on the left, and a new video trailer on the Book Trailers page.  Yes, the clock is ticking down for publication of Gravid.  We appear to be on track for the scheduled release on March 20th -- which is also the first day of spring.  I expect there will be a contest involved again, although it won't be a three-week extravaganza because, oh haha, I'd have to start it this week and I'm not ready.  Anyway, stay tuned for more details.

Also, Read an Ebook Week starts today, and in observance of the week, all my titles at Smashwords are discounted.  Seized, in fact, is free.  Feel free to send your friends and neighbors to my Smashwords author page -- or, heck, head over to Smashwords and pick up a book for yourself.  I know for a fact that at least one of my Rursday Reads books is on sale. (Hint: it's Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris, and it's free!)

If ever a genie wants to grant me three wishes, I am all set.  First, I would wish to always stay at the perfect weight, no matter how much I ate.  Next, I would wish for financial security, so that I could quit my day job and never have to take another one.  And my third wish would be for Amazon and Smashwords to insist that every indie title be vetted by a competent proofreader before they will publish it.

I admit it:  I’m picky about this stuff.  It’s probably because I internalized grammar and spelling rules early. Please don’t hurt me, but I was one of those annoying kids in school who always got good grades on her English papers.  I was a spelling whiz, too.  One of my college journalism professors gave his classes a test on commonly-misspelled words at the beginning each semester. I had two classes with him, so I had to take the test twice.  When I aced the thing for the second time, he wrote on my paper, “People in radio don’t need to know how to spell!”  I’m still not sure whether he was trying to recruit me for the student newspaper.  (If so, it’s clear that he never saw my grade in photography.)

Anyway, my point is that sometimes these days, reading is almost painful for me.  Writers drop so many commas that someone needs to start a home for orphaned subordinate clauses.   Writers also use bad grammar or the wrong words – many times without realizing what they’ve done.  

Sometimes, the result is really sad.  I happened to look at some of the posts on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards discussion boards after the first round of cuts this year.  Submissions in the first round are judged not on the book itself, but on the pitch – the advertising copy, if you will, that goes on the back cover of a paperback and in the “book description” of an e-book listing.  It’s also sometimes called a blurb.  In one of the discussion threads, some of those who didn’t win had posted their pitches for critiques.  Should they cut the sentence at the top?  Maybe move paragraphs around? But to me, it was clear what was wrong, and it wasn’t anything that moving the furniture would cure.  One poster’s pitch had her main character quitting her job to “attend” to her ill husband; the verb she wanted was “tend.”  Another pitch included a sentence whose syntax was so mangled that I couldn’t tell who was doing what with whom – nor, I suspect, could the ABNA judges.

What’s so sad is that these authors didn’t know they were doomed.  An e-book is judged not only by its cover, but by its blurb.  Your blurb must be perfect.  It’s your potential readers’ first opportunity to see your writing.  If what they see is that you can’t write a couple of paragraphs without a mistake, they will pass you by.

Indie authors already face an uphill battle for respect.  Granted, the hill has recently begun to level out, but for goodness’ sake, don’t make things any harder on yourself.  Don’t just rely on Word’s spell checker and grammar checker.  Look stuff up if you’re not sure.  Alert readers of this blog know that one of my go-to grammar sources is Grammar Girl.  I like her site because she's very clear about when something is a rule and when it's simply a style choice.  Sometimes my "rules" turn out to be style choices, which annoys me.  But still, it's good to know. 

Grammar Girl sponsors National Grammar Day, which this year is tomorrow, March fourth.  How about if we all agree to observe the day by checking and double-checking everything we write for errors, and by recruiting competent proofreaders to back us up?  

I can’t tell you how happy that would make me. I’d really rather spend my third wish on a hot guy.

This post appeared, in a slightly different form, on on March 1, 2013.

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