I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reasons Why You Never Want to Make an Author Mad

I'm a regular reader of the Supernatural Underground blog and last year an article written by Karina Cooper caught my eye, and had me giggling uncontrollably because I could so relate to the post.

I emailed her and asked permission to share her post here on my blog as I know some of you will appreciate it as much as I did. Without further ado, here it is...

Reasons Why You Never Want to Make an Author Mad*
by Karina Cooper

Come on, you've seen us. We're all very lovely people, us authors. We smile at the cameras, sign books, hug fans, and so on. Surely, making an author mad must be akin to swatting at a dust bunny, right? I mean, what are we going to do? Cry into our keyboards?

Well. Sort of.

See, yesterday I found myself in the middle of a task that I do actually need for this current run of books I'm plotting. And as I scrolled through pages and pages of data, I thought to myself, Karina, it's a damn good thing your profession is what it is.

Because how else am I to explain why my internet history is full of information on modern day torture techniques?

That's right. Let's talk about reason number one: We know how make you scream. We've researched it down to the last details—certainly not for ourselves, oh, no, but what out characters know, we know. And if we're carrying around a character who is an inquisitor, or a character who was tortured, or worse, we know.

Would we use it? Oh, of course not, officer! We'd never use this information for evil. We're entertainers, not in the business of making the things we know actually happen. Right?

Heh. Heh heh. Right.

Reason number two to avoid making us angry? We know how to hide the body. We've thoroughly researched it. Currents, erosion, garbage truck route details, you name it, we know it. We're a little obsessive when it comes to details, you might have noticed. After all, how else can we guarantee that the extra we offed in chapter 4 doesn't come to light until chapter 15?

The devil is, in fact, in the details.

And speaking of details, let's talk about reason number three: we know things about weapons even the movies get wrong. In that obsession with details, we'll travel all over the information highway to get the facts.

Which means we know what kind of weapons a SEAL carries, we know which weapons jam underwater and which can fire in below freezing temperatures. We know which bullets will turn your brain into so much pink mist and which will leave a neat little exit wound, and which sniper rifle will make this easy.

We know about ninja stars, and the different kinds of knives. We know which guns have suppressors and which can be made to have suppressors, and that the potato suppressor doesn't actually work.
Oh, and I certainly don't mean we'd use these tidbits of terminal information on you! I mean characters, of course! We know how to kill characters. As I said, we're in the habit of making up stories, not in shaping reality. Rest easy, dear reader.

Unless, of course, you'd like to make us mad...?

Which brings us to reason number four: Odds are, we have fans in the police department. No joke! If it's not the boys in blue who love us, it's the women. Or the wives. Regardless of who or how, the reality is, we have people who would love to give us alibis.

Wouldn't any of you give me an alibi if I rang you up one day? "Hey, listen, I'll make a character of your choice and thank you in the acknowledgements if you just tell these nice people where I was yesterday. You know, at your house. Watching Friends. And eating cheddar cheese."

Then there's reason number five: You remember school, when there'd be this rumor going around about "that girl" who did this one horribly embarrassing thing, and you knew—just knew—that everyone was talking about you? 

Imagine having a character based on you. A character who reveals all your secrets—or makes them up. A character who is murdered in the most grisly way. Or a character who survives, but gets exactly what he or she deserves?

Yeah. In our worlds, baby, we're the gods. And we will talk about you in our godly land of godliness.

You don't want that, do you? 

So there you are. Five very good reasons not to piss off your favorite authors. Or even your not so favorite authors. They're really logical, aren't they? I mean, can't you just see the gorgeous Vicki Petersson cackling with glee as she comes up with creative ways to use a coin slot machine and a pair of dice to off somebody?

Or the fabulous Eve Silver, coming up with a viable scientific theory as to how a contagion plague could be released just at a certain point for maximum efficacy?
Let's not discount Merrie Destefano, who knows all the good places in New Orleans to hide a body, or Joss Ware, who knows seventeen ways to dismember a man beyond recognition.

Juliana Stone knows what kind of wounds look like animal attacks—"I have no idea, officer, it looks like a jaguar attack to me."—and Pamela Palmer who is an engineer, and you know how devilishly clever engineers are. I wouldn't mess with her with a twenty-foot pole and a getaway driver on speed dial.

Ahhh, authors. So innocent, and yet...


* Note: This post is entirely tongue-in-cheek and not actually a commentary on the likelihood of authors to commit heinous crimes against real, living people. This is a joke. A post devoted to the rather hilarious fact that we tend to research the most horrible things in our bid to get it right. 

Murder is bad, mmkay?
Karina's Bio: Born from the genetic mash-up of lesser royalty, storytellers, wanderers, and dreamers, Karina Cooper was destined to be a creative genius. As a child, she moved all over the country like some kind of waifish blond gypsy and thrived in the new cultures her family settled in. When she (finally) grew up, she skipped the whole genius part and fell in love with writing because, really, who doesn't love making things up for a living?

One part romance fanatic, one part total dork, and all imagination, she writes dark and sexy paranormal romance and historical urban fantasy. When she isn't writing, Karina is an airship captain's wife and Steampunk fashionista. She lives in the beautiful and rainy Pacific Northwest with a husband, four cats, two rabbits, the fantasy of a dog, and a passel of adopted gamer geeks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TOPIC: Marketing & Promotion - What works?

Unfortunately, the general consensus is a lot of marketing/promo done by an author is unmeasurable.

But, as authors, I think we can make educated guesses on what works, and what doesn't, if we do some research and gather data using the process of trial and error.

Before being published I followed, watched and researched 4-5 of my favorite authors and looked at their websites, blogs, Facebok pages, Twitter posts and so on, and took note of what they were doing, how they did it and what appealed to me in what they did.

I also read a lot of results of reader surveys run by a variety of organisations (like RWAmerica, ARRA and other independent studies).

I came up with a list of things that have helped me shape my promotion & marketing plans (of course, I tweak them as I go as I learn more after each book and time passes).

Here is a small list of points I thought worked well for me (and keep in mind this will vary from author to author):
  • writing the next book is the best form of marketing and promotion ever!
  • other than the above, word of mouth is one of the most powerful selling tool
  • giveaway books ie. a selected number during your blog tours, giveaways at conferences, newsletter prizes to subscribers, Goodreads etc.
The last point feeds word of mouth - how do I know this? I've had readers email me to say they won a giveaway, lent the book to a friend and their friend has liked it enough to want to buy their own copy.

When readers email me I offer to send out signed bookplates for their friend if they'd like one. I used this as a chance to send out a doodad/bookmark/postcard as well (see "doodad" comment below). This may seem small bikkies but I believe every sale counts.

Something else I've noticed that may help:
  • mentioning when your books are significantly discounted or on special at certain places like Amazon, The Book Depository, B&N. I did this on my social media network - FB, Twitter, my newsletter and so on.
Now, while I can't give you 100% proof of sales through doing this, I can only share my observations with you and you can make up your own mind about whether this worked.

I made a point of looking at click-throughs from my newsletter - where subscribers went looking - and tracking things like sales rankings on The Book Depository, Amazon/Author Central, Barnes & Noble etc. I did this on a daily basis for a period of time AFTER I announced these discounts.

What I noticed was this...sales rankings rose. So, I guess one could assume that there may have been some sort of link to advertising discounts and these results.

(As an aside, one thing to be wary of is doing this too often. Bombarding readers with these announcements can be regarded as spammy. It's a very quick way of annoying them and they'll unlike/unfriend/unsubscribe/unfollow you.)
  • Doodads - as a reader I like receiving "stuff", particularly if it's from a favorite author, whether it's postcards, bookmarks, pens, giveaways etc. These "doodads" puts your work/name in front of the reader and anyone else who sees it, every time they use the refrigerator, write or carry something.
One point to consider is that whatever you giveaway should serve a dual purpose. It should advertise your product (the book) and it should be practical. Gauging by emails and comments from readers, things like refrigerator magnets, pens, cups, notepads, tote bags seemed to have worked well for me.

Personally, I quite like calico tote bags you can take them shopping or to work with you (with a book cover & website on the sides). I use them mostly as grocery shopping bags and the number of times I've had people comment and ask about them is amazing. They're (subtle) walking advertisments, small billboards on legs.
  • As a reader I also like free stories for subscribers of newsletters, and snippets of new releases during blog tours (the varied the better as I will follow an author around on their tour getting information about that book), "special extra's" about the book (a bit like the extra's on a DVD, character outlines, bloopers, deleted scenes and so on).
So, as an author, this is what I've tried to incorporate on my website, in my blog tours, on my blog and in my newsletters.

Of course, some of the promotional items require a budget (like the "doodads" & postage) but if you set yourself a strict limit it's doable.

This is my 2c worth on promotion and marketing outside of writing a damn good book! :-)

Does anyone else have an hints or advice they'd like to share on this topic?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cat-urday! - Cats vs.Dogs

Sorry to all the dog lovers out there, but these were too funny not to share!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TOPIC: Marketing and Promotion - Websites

Marketing and promotion can be a controversial topic, especially when writers get together and discuss the topic.

Opinions vary widely, some say it makes no difference, some say that's what your publishing company should be doing for you, some say every little bit helps.

Regardless of where you stand on this topic, in today's market I think it's safe to assume authors have a responsibility for doing something in this arena. Yet another skill we need to attempt and gain some proficiency in.

What sort of promotion or marketing should I do? Well, that varies from author to author.

But the one basic essential marketing and promotion tool any author should have is a website, and this applies to unpublished authors as well.

Unpublished authors should be thinking about creating and establishing a web presence well before signing with a publishing house, purely because once you jump on that merry-go-round you're going to have enough of a learning curve to undertake without the added pressure of getting a website up an running.

If you leave it too late, there's nothing more frustrating for a reader than learning about a new and upcoming author, searching out more information about them and discovering they don't have a website up and running.

Please don't put up a website without content or one that has a collection of messages saying "under development". It's great way to turn readers off and make sure they never come back (same goes for a website that isn't updated regularly - but more on that in a minute).

Another good reason for unpublished authors to have a website - agents and editors could go looking for you once you begin submitting work or querying them. If you're placing in contests, same applies. Judges (aka potential readers) might also go looking for you.

Back to your website. Think of it as your base of operations - and because I'm a huge sci-fi fan - equate it to a space station.

No matter what galaxy you hail from, your space station will be the first port of call for all travellers. They'll search for it and is the one place they'll be able to refuel and find supplies - aka find out about you and/or your books.

Having a website is an essential, even if it's the only marketing/promotional tool you use as an author.

What should I have on my website? The bare necessities include a home page, biography page, books page (if you're pubbed) and contacts page.

Label your page tabs clearly, don't use some obscure term. You want readers able to find content on your website, not pulling their hair out in frustration when they can't. You want them coming back time and again, not avoiding it.

Keep your website simple, easy to navigate. Make sure it reflects your brand (and if you want to know what that is, then check out Nikki Logan's post on this here).

If this is your first foray into planning and designing a website, go look at your favourite author's websites. This is the easiest and best way to work out what appeals to you.

What grabs your attention from their sites? Look at the content they've placed on their pages. Is this something you'd like to have on yours? This is how I developed mine.

You'll find over time you'll redesign or overhaul it. A website shouldn't be a static thing. It should always be evolving, and this brings me to one of the most important things about creating and maintaining a website.

Keep it up to date!

Let me repeat that.

Keep. It. Up. To. Date.

Once a month maintenance - up date your home page, make sure you have your latest releases, cover blurbs, and buy links posted, make sure you have a series book list in chronological order.

Do this and your readership will be happy. And you'll keep them coming back.

If you build it, they will come!

Any other tips or hints on websites, folks?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

GUEST AUTHOR: Maureen McGowan

Today, guest blogger, author Donnell Ann Bell, author of THE PAST CAME HUNTING, is interviewing YA author, Maureen McGowan about her new release DEVIANTS.

Maureen McGowan always loved writing fiction, but side-tracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into novels. After leaving a career in finance and accounting, she hasn't looked back.

Aside from her love of books, she's passionate about films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes.

She lives and writes in Toronto, Canada where she attends the Toronto International Film Festival each year.

In a post-apocalyptic world, where the earth is buried by asteroid dust that’s mutated the DNA of some humans, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Glory must hide and protect her younger brother.

If their Deviant abilities are discovered, they’ll be expunged—kicked out of the dome to be tortured and killed by the Shredders. Glory would give anything to get rid of her unique ability to kill with her emotions, especially when Cal, the boy she’s always liked, becomes a spy for the authorities. But when her brother is discovered, and she learns their father, who was expunged for killing their mother, is still alive, she must escape the domed city that’s been her entire world.

Outside in the ruins, they’re pursued by the authorities and by sadistic, scab-covered Shredders who are addicted to the lethal-to-humans dust now covering the planet. Glory’s quests to transport herself and her brother to safety make up the thrilling and fascinating first volume of The Dust Chronicles.

"A deliciously dark, harrowing world, brightened by dazzling characters and sparkling prose." --Kelley Armstrong

"A tense thriller with a strong, beating heart at its center. Glory and her impossible choices will keep you glued to the page. I'm still trying to catch my breath!" --Diana Peterfreund

"McGowan launches The Dust Chronicles with a bang, painting her post-apocalyptic world with a dark brush and featuring a strong-willed and determined protagonist. Readers will be immediately transported to this world where businessmen rule the job-based class system." -- RT Book Reviews
“Exciting... McGowan keeps the suspense throbbing...” –Kirkus Reviews

###Maureen is running a Goodreads giveaway of DEVIANTS (only open to members in only the following countries: US, CA, GB, and AU). It closes November 9th, 2012. If you're interested in entering, click here.

Donnell:  Congratulations, friend, DEVIANTS is getting rave reviews.  And is that the most amazing cover?  The characterization comes through even in your blurb.  Shredders.  Are these zombie-like people?

Maureen:  Thanks, Donnell! The Shredders are like a cross between zombies and the reavers from the short-lived TV show Firefly. They have bulging eyes and skin that looks scab-covered—mostly because they like to coat their bodies with the blood of their victims. They are pretty terrifying, and they definitely add an element of horror to DEVIANTS, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Donnell:  I see a pattern here.  Glory your main character is tempted to turn on her boyfriend who spies for the authorities.  Glory’s father killed her mother.  Am I reading something into this that isn’t there, or have you got some kind of major plotting going on in this series.

Maureen: Betrayal and its effect on the heroine’s ability to trust is a major theme in DEVIANTS. There are also layers of deceptions in these stories—even more in the series’ second book COMPLIANCE, which releases May 21, 2013. Not everything is as it seems.

Donnell:  Love the concept of this post-apocalyptic series.  Tell us about the dome that protects the survivors of the asteroid that buried the human race.  And what’s on the outside that makes them want to stay put.

Maureen:  DEVIANTS is set three generations after several asteroids hit the earth. The asteroids caused major destruction, and also triggered multiple earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. After the asteroids struck, huge clouds of dust moved through the world’s atmosphere and fell to cover everything. The dust is lethal to most humans and has changed the DNA of others. It gave some affected humans special abilities or powers, and turned others into sadistic Shredders.

The story begins inside a domed city called Haven. It was built soon after the asteroids struck, by a consortium of corporations, to protect its inhabitants from the dust. The executives who led the charge to build Haven wanted to save themselves from the dust. They took what they wanted and tossed aside anything they didn’t need—including people.

Three generations later, buildings are in disrepair, there’s massive overcrowding, and a clear separation between the haves “Management” and the have-nots—everyone else.

Donnell:  Glory has the ability to kill with her emotions.  That’s an intriguing and scary power.  She’s 16 years old.  I can’t even imagine the struggle she must face.  Can you share a bit of where you got the idea of this series?  Then tell us what we can expect from The Dust Chronicles in future work!

Maureen: I agree! I think it would be terrifying to know that your emotions can kill, especially at a time in your life when emotions run high! Imagine falling in love for the first time and not being able to look into the boy’s eyes for fear you’d hurt or kill him? At the beginning of the trilogy, Glory certainly sees her power as more of a curse than a blessing.

The next book in The Dust Chronicles is called COMPLIANCE and it will be out on May 21, 2013. I don’t want to say too much more, except that it will continue Glory’s story and she’ll be put in even more danger than she was in DEVIANTS and face even bigger challenges.

Donnell:  Quite different from your kick-ass fairy tale young adults wouldn’t you say?  How fun/different was it to transition into young adult dystopian.

Maureen: DEVIANTS is similar to the Twisted Tales books in that they all have a lot of action, a lot of worldbuilding and strong heroines. But because the publisher for the Twisted Tales books wanted them to appeal to younger readers as well as a YA audience, I couldn’t make them as dark as I would have liked to. My editor kept giving me notes like—remember the nine-year-olds! (I had some great ideas for Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer that were too dark for younger teen readers.)

DEVIANTS was written for more of a true YA audience—which these days doesn’t just mean teens. More than half of YA readers these days are adults.

It was great to let loose and tell the story I wanted to tell. Today’s YA reader is sophisticated and the books are anything but juvenile. I actually think there’s more freedom in YA for authors to tell bolder, more “out there” stories than in the adult market. Plus, it’s easier to blend genres.

DEVIANTS has elements of sci-fi, thriller, horror and romance. I call it a post-apocalyptic thriller, with a dystopian setting and dollops of horror and romance.

Donnell: Congratulations, Maureen!

Maureen: Thank you Donnell! And thank you to Kylie from us both for letting us hijack your blog! 

My pleasure Maureen & Donnell - you both hosted a wonderful interview - thanks for sharing your latest release, Maureen!

You can keep track of Maureen here:
Website     Facebook    Twitter

Donnell Ann Bell is the author of THE PAST CAME HUNTING. Donnell is as at home in nonfiction as she is in fiction. She has worked for a weekly business publication and a monthly parenting magazine, but prefers her fictional writing compared to writing about stock portfolios or treating diaper rash. She has a background in court reporting, has worked with kids and engineers, and has volunteered for law enforcement and other organizations. Raised in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment, Donnell has called the state of Colorado home for the past twenty-eight years.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Taking a break!

After four years of blogging, it's time I took a break.

So, for the month of November and maybe even December, the regular author series are on hold and posts in general may be sporadic.

I'm taking time out for me, recharging my batteries and doing some analysing and planning for the blog for 2013. If anyone has any suggestions on what they'd like to see here next year, please leave them in the comments section and I'll take them into consideration during my planning sessions. 

In the immortal words of The Terminator...

"I'll be back!"

ROFL! The Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

I love the Muppets - grew up with them as a kid - so when I heard they did Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody I couldn't resist tracking it down and posting it here.

Long live the Muppets!